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The New Paid Sick Leave Law – What You Need to Know

As of Wednesday, October 29, 2018, most employees working for a New Jersey employer, even temporary help service firms, are entitled to one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked.  Note, however, that the law does NOT include construction workers operating under a collective bargaining unit, per diem healthcare employees, and public employees who already have sick leave benefits.

Under the law, covered employees can earn up to 40 hours of paid sick leave per year; BUT employers are NOT required to allow employees to roll over any of that time to the next year.  This post is meant to serve as an abbreviated note of what employees and employers should be thinking about now.

  • Figure out what the “benefit year” is.  Under the law, the employer has to establish a 12-month period, known as a “benefit year,” during which you can accrue paid sick time.  The “benefit year” must begin the later of either the effective date of the law (October 29, 2018) or your hire date. Once the “benefit year” is established, the employer cannot change it without first notifying the Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
  • Know that paid time off earned under this law entitles the employee to the same rate he or she normally earns, and not less than minimum wage.
  • Know that employers may NOT permit employees taking paid time off under this law to cover their shifts.
  • Know that the right to take paid time off under this law is limited to the below reasons:
  1. Diagnosis, care, treatment, or recovery for mental or physical illness, including for preventive medical care;
  2. Aid or care for a family member’s diagnosis, care, treatment, or recovery from a mental or physical illness, including preventive medical care;
  3. Absence resulting from the employee or the employee’s family member being a victim of domestic or sexual violence, to obtain: (a) necessary medical attention; (b) services from a domestic violence agency or other victim services organization; (c) psychological or other counseling; (d) relocation; or (e) legal services for civil, criminal, and quasi-criminal proceedings relating to the domestic or sexual violence;
  4. Closure of the employee’s workplace or the school/child-care facility for an employee’s child due to a public official’s order regarding an epidemic or other public health emergency;
  5. Absence required by 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; or 
  6. Time to attend the employee’s or a child of the employee’s school-related conference, meeting, function or other event requested or required by a school administrator, teacher, or other professional staff member responsible for the education, or to attend a meeting regarding care provided to the child in connection with the child’s health conditions or disability.

*NOTE: While employers may still offer personal days and vacation, this law does not account for strictly personal time.  Employers should consider, and employees should find out, to what extent any existing vacation day and personal time policies will remain in effect.

  • Know that when an employee intends to use paid time off for a foreseeable reason, the employer may require the employee to provide advance notice – though the employer cannot require more than 7 days’ notice. Additionally, the law requires employees to make all reasonable efforts to schedule the requested time off in a manner that does not “unduly disrupt the employer’s operations,” and permits employers to prohibit using paid time off on certain dates.
  • When the need to take paid time off is not foreseeable, i.e. in an emergency, employers may require advance notice as soon as reasonably possible, and may require the employee to provide “reasonable documentation” showing that the reason for the leave is for one of the above-described purposes.

*NOTE: The law expressly requires employers to treat any documentation regarding health or domestic or sexual violence as confidential.

  • In either foreseeable or unforeseeable circumstances, if an employee takes 3 or more consecutive days of paid time off, the employer may require reasonable documentation showing that the leave is for one of the above-described purposes.
  • The law expressly prohibits taking retaliatory or discriminatory action against employees exercising their rights under this law. This means, at a minimum, employers may NOT treat time off taken pursuant to this law as a reason for discipline, discharge, demotion, suspension, or any other adverse action.
  • Employers are required to maintain records of each employee’s earned sick leave, and post conspicuous notice to employees (in a form that will be provided by the Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development), in a place accessible by all employees, as well as written notice to each employee.

There are obviously very large practical implications to both employers and employees, which will require a significant adjustment going forward.  As the Department of Labor and Workforce Development develop and implement regulations and disputes arise, the issues presented by this law are likely to deepen.  Therefore, employers seeking to update and implement policies and procedures to comply with their obligations under the law, as well as employees trying to determine what their rights are going forward, are well advised to seek legal advice in order to avoid running afoul of the law’s requirements.  If you need guidance with respect to your rights or obligation under the new law, don’t hesitate to contact Attorneys Hartman for advice and assistance.

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