Press of Atlantic City

N.J. Sick Leave Now Guaranteed Under New Law

Press of Atlantic City — May 3, 2018

NICOLE LEONARD
Staff Writer

TRENTON — Workers in New Jersey will now be guaranteed earned sick leave after Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill into law Wednesday.

The New Jersey Earned Sick and Safe Days Act allows employees to accrue one hour of earned sick leave for every 30 hours they worked, and supporters say they hope this policy will strengthen job security, especially among lower income workers.

"Workers in New Jersey will no longer have to choose between a paycheck and their health, nor will they need to leave a sick family member's bedside to secure their job," Dena Mottola Jaborska, associate director at New Jersey Citizen Action, said in April when the bill passed in the Senate.

Workers can earn up to a maximum of 40 hours, or five days, in a single year and will be able to use that sick time to care for themselves and family members, or for other reasons, after 120 days from the time they start their job.

Bill sponsors estimated that more than 1 million residents were unable to earn sick leave, including some who reported they had lost a job or been threatened with termination for taking time off due to illness or to care for a family member.

Legislators said lower income workers who are more often employed in retail, food service, child care and the hotel industry were more likely to have less earned sick days, but will now be able to benefit from the new law.

New Jersey Business and Industry Association president and CEO Michele N. Siekerka said in a statement Wednesday that association members, concerned with how the new law would affect business owners and "well intended-employers," fought to bring down the cap on earned hours from 72 to 40 hours.

The association was also against allowing employers to require workers to provide a doctor's note for sick time as the employers would then have to pay the out-of-pocket costs stemming from that doctor's visit. That requirement was removed from the final bill.

Businesses will also be able to keep existing paid time-off plans they already offered to workers before the new law.

"While we have historically opposed this mandate, New Jersey Business and Industry Association appreciates these important amendments, the deliberation taken by the bills' sponsors to understand its impacts on businesses and for working in the spirit of compromise, while achieve their overall goal," Siekerka said.

In addition to physical and mental illnesses, conditions or injuries, employees can also use the sick time to attend a child's school-related conference, meeting, function or event required by a teaching staff member, or in cases of domestic violence when that person needs to get medical care, counseling, relocation, legal or other services.

The bill prohibits employers from retaliating against workers for the use or requested use of earned sick leave or for filing a complaint of a violation.

"Paid sick leave will simply create a healthier environment throughout our state for both employees and consumers," bill co-sponsor Asseblyman Paul Moriarti, D-Camden, Gloucester, said in a statement. "This law enables workers to take the time to better themselves without the worries of losing their job or spreading illness to others."

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