Topic: Labor and Employment
Federal law does not require employers to provide paid sick leave for their employees and currently only seven states have paid sick leave laws for private sector employees. A number of other states, including New Jersey, have proposed new paid sick leave laws but they have yet to be signed into law. New Jersey state law does require that public sector employees receive 15 days paid sick leave each year and even allows public employees to accumulate sick leave from year to year, with no limitations (NJ Rev. Stat. Sec. 11:A6-5). In the absence of state action regarding private sector employees, however, many municipalities have taken matters into their own hands, and passed ordinances providing paid sick leave for employees within their borders. Many New Jersey municipalities have adopted paid sick leave ordinances in recent years, covering many employees who previously did not have access to such benefits. New York City has passed a paid sick leave law in recent years as well.
New Jersey’s proposed state paid sick leave law, bill, S-799, has bounced around Trenton for years. Last March it narrowly cleared the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee by a 7-6 vote. The future of the law remains murky, however, as many opponents of the bill are concerned that the law will stifle New Jersey’s economic recovery.
Due to the lack of state action, the movement for paid sick leave in New Jersey at a municipal level began in 2013 when Jersey City passed the first such law, followed by East Orange, Irvington, Montclair, Newark, Passaic, Paterson, and Trenton in 2014. Bloomfield, Elizabeth and New Brunswick followed suit in 2015 and Morristown and Plainfield passed their own ordinances in 2016, bringing the total to thirteen municipalities with paid sick leave laws.
The ordinances are not exactly the same but are largely similar, allowing for employees who work at least 80 hours a year in the relevant municipality to be covered by the ordinance. Employees are eligible to earn 1 hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked, earning up to 40 hours of paid sick time per year for employees who work at businesses that employ ten or more people. Employees of businesses with fewer than ten employees may earn up to 24 hours of paid sick leave per year. All home health care, child care and food service workers may earn up to 40 hours per year regardless of the size of the business they work for.
Unused sick time will carry over from year to year, but employers are not required to carry over more than 40 hours of unused time. Time may be used to for the employee’s mental and physical health needs, as well as for the care of a family member.
One point that remains a matter of contention in the state Assembly is whether passage of the state bill would preempt municipal ordinances that have already been passed. Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto has pushed strongly for state preemption of municipal ordinances, while many supporters of the bill have pushed back. Until the bill has been approved by the full Legislature, New Jersey workers and businesses will need to adapt to local ordinances as they are passed.