On May 2, 2018, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed Senate Bill 104, requiring all employers, regardless of size, to provide paid sick time to employees. New Jersey joins Arizona, California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and Washington D.C. in requiring private sector employers to provide paid sick leave to their employees. The New Jersey Paid Sick Leave Act is scheduled to take effect October 29, 2018.
Under the Act, employers must establish a benefit year of 12 consecutive months during which an employee may accrue up to 40 hours of paid sick leave benefits at a rate of one benefit hour for every 30 hours worked. The benefit year cannot be changed unless the employer notifies the Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development. Employees will accrue sick leave on the effective date of the new law, and may use any accrued sick leave beginning on the 120th calendar day after the employee begins employment. Employees hired after the effective date will accrue sick leave immediately and may use accrued sick leave beginning on the 120th day after their employment commences.
Employers may require employees to provide an advance notice for foreseeable use of leave such as a doctor’s appointment. Employers may prohibit employees from using foreseeable earned sick leave on certain dates. The leave may be used:
- to care for the employee’s own mental or physical illness, injury or other condition;
- to care for a family member’s mental or physical illness , injury or other condition;
- to obtain legal services, treatment and other counseling in connection with the employee or the employee’s family member being a victim of domestic or sexual violence;
- to cover time during which the employer’s workplace or the employee’s child’s school or place of care is closed by order of public officials due to a public health concern; or
- to attend a school-related conference, meeting, function or other event requested or required by the school of an employee’s child.
Employees shall not be required to work additional hours or shifts, or find a replacement worker to cover the hours during which the employee is using earned sick leave. Employers may dictate the increment in which an employee takes leave, provided that the largest increment required may not exceed the number of hours the employee was scheduled to work during the shift from which he or she requested leave. Any unused earned sick leave may be carried over to the next benefit year, provided that the accrued time does not exceed 40 hours.
Employers may not take retaliatory personnel action or discriminate against an employee because he or she attempted or used the sick leave benefits permitted under the Act, or files a complaint with the commissioner alleging the employer’s violation of any provision of this law, or informs any other person of their rights under this Act. Employers must keep paid sick leave records for a period of five years. The records must show the hours worked by employees and earned sick leave taken by employees.
The Commissioner is expected to release a notice describing employee rights under the Act by the time the Act becomes effective. Employers will be required to display this notice in a place accessible to all employees in the workplace and provide a written copy to each employee. Once the notice is released, employers will have 30 days to provide this copy to all employees.
Employers, especially the ones with an existing sick leave policy, must start preparing for the new law. Employers with an existing sick leave policy are advised to start making any necessary changes to their policies to comply with the new requirements. Employers without a sick leave policy are encouraged to start implementing new policies.