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Jersey City Extends Right To Earned Paid Sick Time

Jersey City Extends Right to Earn Paid Sick Time to Nearly Every Private-Sector Worker in the City

Advocates, Workers, and Business Owners Laud Jersey City for Strengthening Existing Earned Sick Time Law

PolitickerNJ — Wednesday, October 28, 2015

By Rob Duffey

JERSEY CITY— The Jersey City Council today approved legislation that would strengthen the groundbreaking earned sick time ordinance originally passed in September 2013. The legislation was co-sponsored by Council President Rolando R. Lavarro, Jr. and Councilwoman At-Large Joyce Watterman, and the expansion of coverage under the new law includes thousands of part-time and temporary employees. The new legislation will update the paid-sick leave ordinance, to bring it in line with ordinances in other New Jersey communities. The ordinance passed by a vote of 7 to 1, with 1 abstention.

"We're extremely proud that, in 2013, we made Jersey City the first city in the state — and the 6th in the country to pass paid-sick leave," said Mayor Steven Fulop. "Since then, we've seen how well the legislation has worked — for businesses and workers alike — and I couldn't be prouder to see the City Council approve legislation expanding and strengthening this crucial policy."

Council President Lavarro, a sponsor of the original earned sick days legislation in 2013, explained that expanding the earned sick days ordinance fulfills a commitment that the City Council and administration made to Jersey City's workforce when the policy was first enacted two years ago.

"When we passed the original ordinance, we said we would undertake a thorough review of whether earned sick days was working as intended, and we promised that as long as the policy was benefiting both our City's workers and businesses, we would expand it to cover an even greater share of our workforce," said Council President Lavarro. "Now that we know that earned sick days has been such a success, the City Council is prepared to make good on that promise. This ordinance will make Jersey City an even healthier place to live and work, while setting an example for communities around New Jersey to follow,"

Councilwoman Watterman, who is co-sponsoring the legislation, similarly recognized the positive role earned sick days has played in Jersey City.

"By strengthening Jersey City's groundbreaking earned sick time ordinance, we're protecting the public health while ensuring that no one who works in Jersey City will ever have to choose between their family's health and their livelihood," said Councilwoman Watterman. "This is the right thing to do for Jersey City's working families, and the smart thing to do for our communities."

In 2013, Jersey City became the first city in the state and only the sixth in the nation to pass an earned sick leave ordinance. Since then, eight other New Jersey municipalities have followed suit. Jersey City's earned sick time ordinance currently allows workers in businesses with 10 or more employees to earn up to 5 paid sick days per year, while workers in businesses with fewer than 10 employees may earn 5 unpaid sick days per year.

The ordinance introduced tonight would allow the following:

"Jersey City broke new ground by passing the state's first earned sick time ordinance, but the limitations of unpaid time for Jersey City's most vulnerable workers continues to force residents to choose between a day's pay and their health," said Phyllis Salowe-Kaye, executive director of New Jersey Citizen Action and spokesperson for the New Jersey Time to Care Coalition. "The legislation today acknowledges a simple fact: everyone gets sick, so everyone needs the time to care for themselves or their loved ones when illness strikes."

A survey of workers and businesses conducted by the Center for Women and Work at Rutgers University one year after the Jersey City law went into effect found that 42 percent of the businesses that changed their policies because of the law reported reduced employee turnover, increased productivity and an improved candidate pool. And far from abusing their paid sick days, most workers saved them for when they needed them and used only 3 of the 5 they earned over the course of the year.

"Our report strongly affirmed the benefits of earned sick days found by previous studies in San Francisco, Seattle, and Connecticut," said Elaine Zundl, Research Director, Rutgers Center for Women and Work. "The wealth of research from around the country shows that employers enjoy a range of benefits from allowing their workers to earn paid sick time that exceeds any costs from workers taking the time to get well."

Since enacting an earned sick time policy, Jersey City's economic growth has outpaced the rest of the state. It has enjoyed the 16th strongest recovery in the country following the Great Recession according to a September survey. Other cities around the country, like Seattle and San Francisco, have also gained jobs more quickly than neighboring cities and counties that did not guarantee the right to earn paid sick time.

"We have offered paid sick days to all our employees since the beginning," said YonelLettelier, a member of the New Jersey Main Street Alliance and owner of Lolo Organics, an organic food cafe that opened in March of 2015. "As business owners we have to consider the human needs of our employees. If they are sick, or they need to care for a family member they should not have to worry about not getting a paycheck."

Coalition members that worked to advance earned sick days in Jersey City and other municipalities include New Jersey Citizen Action, the New Jersey Time to Care Coalition, New Jersey Working Families, SEIU 32BJ, New Jersey Communities United, and CWA District 1.

"Over the last two years Jersey City has shown the rest of the country that everybody benefits when workers can earn time to care for themselves and their family, and now they are leading the way again," said Analilia Mejia, executive director of New Jersey Working Families. "We thank Mayor Fulop, Council President Lavarro, and the Jersey City Council for setting an example that elected leaders around the state should follow."

"This improved ordinance means even more Jersey City workers will be able to earn paid sick time," said Kevin Brown, 32BJ Vice President and NJ State Director. "When employees have this option, they can breathe easier knowing they won't have to lose pay or risk losing their job if they take time off when they are sick or need to care for an ill loved one. This gives workers piece of mind and employers healthier workplaces."

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