(TRENTON) — Legislation Assembly Democrats Pamela Lampitt, Raj Mukherji, Jerry Green, Shavonda Sumter and Benjie Wimberley sponsored to require employers to provide earned sick leave to workers in New Jersey was advanced Thursday by the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
The bill (A-1827) would allow workers to accrue one hour of earned sick leave for every 30 hours worked.
“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.”
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, noted the sponsors.
“This is simply a matter of respect for our workers,” said Green (D-Middlesex/Union). “They should not be fearful of losing their employment if they are unable to come to work because of an illness. It is absolutely unfair for workers to have to choose between taking care of themselves or their families and keeping their jobs.”
“Access to paid sick leave common sense,” said Sumter (D-Bergen/Passaic). “Workers can take needed time to recoup from a health issue without the fear of losing income or their job.”
“Additional hardships can come with taking unpaid time off,” said Wimberly (D-Bergen/Passaic). “Many working families in New Jersey do not have the luxury of having that option as they cannot afford to miss one day’s pay. This bill would help employees and their families feel more protected knowing their incomes will not suffer if they are unable to work as the result of an illness.”
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 bill will cap annual yearly accrual, use, and carryover of earned sick leave at 40 hours per week.
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;
· 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 as a result 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, or;
· Time needed by the employee in connection with a child of the employee to attend a school related conference, meeting, function, or other event or required by a school professional staff member.
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.
This bill will create statewide uniform floor or mandated earned sick leave. Employers would still be able to offer, and employees would still be able to collectively bargain for, more generous benefits.