Paid Sick Leave Law

On April 12, 2018, the New Jersey legislature passed S2171, known as the New Jersey Paid Sick Leave Act, which is a mandatory paid sick leave law applicable to all employers. Gov. Phil Murphy has announced his intention to sign the bill into law on May 2, 2018 to be effective 180 days after its execution.

Under the new law, employers, regardless of size, must establish a “benefit year” and allow eligible employees to accrue up to 40 hours of paid sick leave at a rate of one benefit hour per 30 hours worked. Eligible employees include those perform work within NJ, but doesn’t include certain employees performing service in the construction industry that is under contract pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement, any per diem health care employees or public employees who are provided with full paid sick leave pursuant to another state law.

Employers that already offer paid time off (including, but not limited to, personal days, vacation days and/or sick days) will be compliant under the law, provided the accrual rate is at least as generous as described under the law, all eligible employees are provided leave and employees can use their earned sick time for the same permissible purposes (described below).

Unless the employer has already accrued sick time prior to the effective date of the law, sick leave will begin to accrue on the date that the law takes effect for employees hired and working before such date. Newly hired employees begin to accrue sick leave immediately upon starting a new job and may use earned sick time on the 120th day after the employee begins working.

Employees may use earned sick time for any the following reasons:

  • Diagnosis, care, treatment of, or recovery from a mental or physical illness, injury or other adverse health conditions, or for preventative medical care of the employee
  • Caring for a family member during diagnosis, care, treatment of, or recovery from a mental or physical illness, injury or other adverse health conditions, or for preventative medical care of the employee’s family member
  • Absence(s) necessary due to the employee or employee’s family member being a victim of domestic or sexual violence, if the sick leave is used for any of the following:
    • Medical attention needed to recover from physical or psychological injury or disability caused by domestic or sexual violence
    • Services from a designated domestic violence agency or other victim services organization
    • Psychological or other counseling
    • Relocation
    • Other legal services, including obtaining a restraining order or preparing for, or participating in, any civil or criminal legal proceeding related to the domestic violence or sexual violence
  • Time needed after the closure of the employee’s workplace or the school/place of care for the employee’s child by order of a public official or other public health emergency, or if a public health authority issues a determination that the presence of the employee or their family member would jeopardize the health of others
  • Attending a school-related function of the employee’s child requested or required by the school responsible for the child’s education, or attending a meeting concerning the care provided to the child in connection with the child’s health conditions or disability

Employers may require an employee to provide advance notice to use sick leave (if foreseeable), but not more than seven calendar days. Notice should include the date the leave is set to begin and the expected duration. If unforeseeable, employees must give notice as soon as practicable. If the sick leave is of three or more consecutive days, an employer may require that employees provide reasonable documentation that their leave time is for a permitted purpose under the law. Any information concerning the health or domestic or sexual violence of an employee or their family member will be confidential and shall not be disclosed, except to the affected employee or with written permission of the employee.

The law includes recordkeeping and notification requirements. Specifically, employers must keep employee records of hours worked and sick leave taken for a period of five years, and those records must be made available for review upon request by the NJ Department of Labor. The department will develop a notice that the employer must post in the workplace. The employer must also give a copy of this notice to employees within 30 days of the notice being drafted and provided to new hires as well as upon any employee’s request.

With regard to penalties, the law provides for a private right of action by an aggrieved employee and includes (but is not limited to) liquidated damages equal to the actual damages sustained by an aggrieved employee (i.e., wages multiplied by two).

The law expressly prohibits towns and cities from enacting ordinances regarding earned sick leave and preempts the previous municipal ordinances in existence prior to the law. When the law is signed, New Jersey will become the tenth state to require some form of paid leave.

Because it’s anticipated that this law will be signed, New Jersey employers should review their sick leave and paid time off policies to ensure compliance with the new law. Employers with specific questions should work with outside counsel, particularly since the law relates to employer leave policies, which can involve issues outside the employee benefits realm.

New Jersey Paid Sick Leave Act »