Lampitt & Mukherji Earned Sick Leave Bill Continues Advancing in Assembly

Bill Would Make N.J. 3rd State to Require Earned Sick Leave

Legislation Assembly Democrats Pamela Lampitt and Raj Mukherji sponsored to require employers to provide earned sick leave to workers in New Jersey was advanced Monday by the Assembly Budget Committee.

The bill (A-2354) would allow workers to accrue one hour of earned sick leave for every 30 hours worked.

New Jersey would follow Connecticut and California as states to pass legislation requiring employers to allow workers to earn paid sick leave.

“Workers should not have to choose between caring for their health and keeping their paychecks or jobs,” said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington). “Guaranteeing workers the ability to earn paid sick days would help ensure workers do not have to choose between their health and their economic security. New Jersey should be a leader in the fight for this common sense, pro-worker policy.”

“Earned sick leave is a sensible workplace policy that is good for business and will prove crucial to New Jersey’s economic future, stability and strength,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson). “Workers who can properly take care of themselves and their families will feel secure in their jobs and be better employees. In addition to improving morale and reducing the spread of illness in the workplace, this legislation will also help employers with compliance and predictability.”

Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson/Bergen) has said the bill was among his priorities.

“New Jersey’s middle-class and working poor have waited too long for this basic step forward in worker rights,” said Prieto (D-Hudson/Bergen). “I support every local effort to adopt this pro-worker policy, but I also feel strongly that this must be a statewide policy. It’s this simple – earned sick leave means stronger families, stronger workplaces and stronger communities.”

An estimated 1.1 million New Jerseyans are unable to earn sick leave, with nearly one-quarter of American adults reporting they’ve lost a job or been threatened with job loss for taking time off due to illness or to care for a sick child or relative.

The bill would require each employer to provide earned sick leave to each employee it employs in the state. The employee accrues one hour of earned sick leave for every 30 hours worked. The employer is not required to permit the employee to accrue at any one time, or carry forward from one benefit year to the next, more than 40 hours of earned sick leave if the employer is a small employer in the state, or more than 72 hours of earned sick leave if the employer is not a small employer.

Unless the employee accrued earned sick leave prior to the effective date of this act, the leave accrues beginning on the effective date if the employee was hired prior to that time and the employee shall be able to use the leave time beginning on the 90th day after his/her hire. For employees hired after the effective date of this act, the earned sick leave shall begin to accrue upon the date of hire and the employee shall be eligible to use the time beginning on the 90th day after hiring.

The employer is required to pay the employee for earned sick leave at the same rate with the same benefits as the employee normally earns, except that the pay rate may not be less than the state minimum wage.

Earned sick leave may be used for:

· Time needed for diagnosis, care, or treatment of, or recovery from, an employee’s mental or physical illness, injury or other adverse health condition, or for preventive medical care for the employee;

· Time needed for the employee to care for a family member during diagnosis, care, or treatment of, or recovery from, the family member’s mental or physical illness, injury or other adverse health condition, or preventive medical care for the family member;

· Absence needed due to circumstances resulting from the employee or a family member being a victim of domestic violence, if the leave is to obtain medical attention, counseling, relocation, legal or other services; or

· Time during which the employee is not able to work because of a closure of the employee’s workplace, or the school or place of care of a child of the employee, by order of a public official due to an epidemic or other public health emergency, or because of the issuance by a public health authority of a determination that the presence in the community of the employee, or a member of the employee’s family in need of care by the employee, would jeopardize the health of others.

The bill prohibits retaliatory personnel actions against an employee for the use or requested use of earned sick leave or for filing of a complaint for an employer violation.

The bill specifies that it’s intended to set minimum standards for earned sick leave, but not to prevent any employer policies, collective bargaining agreements or other laws or ordinances which set higher standards.

It also exempts, from the definition of “employee,” construction employees that are under contract pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement.