On October 29, 2018, the New Jersey Paid Sick Leave Act (A-1827) will take effect, entitling most workers in the state to paid sick leave and making New Jersey the 10th state in the country to enact statewide legislation for mandatory paid sick time.
In addition to paid sick time benefits, the NJPSLA will also bring a number of new rules, rights, and requirements for both employers and employees. On this blog, our team at Levinson Axelrod, P.A. provides important information about the new law.
What is the New Jersey Paid Sick Leave Act?
The Act will require all employers in New Jersey to provide up to 40 hours of paid sick leave within a “benefit year.” Per regulatory rules, a benefit year is a period of 12 consecutive months as established by the employer. Employers have the option to provide 1 hour of sick leave for every 30 hours an employee works (accrual method) or provide employees with the entire 40 hours of paid sick time at the beginning of the designated benefit year.
Additionally, the new law will allow employees to carry-over as many as 40 hours of unused sick leave. However, employers will have the option to payout unused sick time, or may ask employees if they prefer carry-overs of unused leave.
To Whom Does the Act Apply?
The Act applies to all businesses in the state of New Jersey, regardless of size or number of employees, and preempts all local laws regarding paid sick time (there are currently 13 municipalities in New Jersey with paid sick leave ordinances). It also applies to most part-time and full-time employees in the state, with the exception of:
- Health care / hospital employees paid per diem
- Construction workers employed under collective bargaining agreements
- Public sector workers with sick leave currently established by NJ law
- Residents of New Jersey who work out of the state
How Can Employees Use Sick Leave?
The Act provides workers in New Jersey with flexibility in how they use sick leave benefits. Under the law, employees may use sick time to:
- Treat or recover from a mental or physical illness, or the mental or physical illness of a family member.
- Obtain preventative medical care for themselves or a family member.
- Obtain medical or legal services or attend legal proceedings resulting from domestic violence.
- Leave when employees are unable to work as a result of workplace, childcare, or school closures caused by public health emergencies, epidemics, or health-related concerns that may impact the health of others.
- Attend events for school events, including parent-teacher conferences, administrative meetings, or other requested activities held during the work day.
Some of the permitted reasons for using leave include issues involving family members. Under the Act, family members may include an employee’s immediate family, including their children or grandchildren, spouse, sibling, and parent or grandparent. Because “family” is broadly defined by the act, it can also include a spouse’s or partner’s parents and siblings, or generally any person related to the employee by blood or with whom the employee has a close bond equivalent to that of a family relationship.
What Will Employers Need to Do to Comply?
The new law has many implications for employers, which is why a proactive and ongoing focus on labor management and payroll policies will be crucial to compliance, ensuring employees’ rights, and avoiding violations and penalties for both non-compliance and retaliation. A few important requirements pertaining to employers under the Act include:
- Notifying workers of their rights under the Act by posting notice.
- Recordkeeping requirements, including documentation (maintained for five years) of the hours employees work and the paid sick time they utilize.
- Preservation of accrued sick leave following intra-company transfers, separation and reinstatement within six months, and acquisitions by other businesses.
Under the Act, employers may choose an alternative method of satisfying requirements by creating or retaining existing paid time off (PTO) policies that include paid personal, vacation, and sick time. Compliant PTO policies must meet a few additional requirements, including accrual or advance of PTO at rates equal or greater to requirements under the Act, permitted PTO use for the same reasons outlined by the Act, and more.
What Should Employees Know?
Employees should know a few important things in order to protect their rights under the NJPSLA. Some key points include:
- Determine the nature of your employment and whether or not you are covered by the Act (i.e. per diem health care workers, construction workers employed pursuant to collective bargaining agreements, and public employees who already have sick leave under current law are exempt).
- What you can and cannot use paid sick leave for, and understanding the permitted reasons mentioned above (medical treatment, school-related events, etc.).
- When you can use paid sick leave. Under the Act, new employees are eligible to use their sick time following a 120-day period from the date their employment began if employers used the accrual method, or when earned sick leave has been advanced by the employer (provided that the employer does not have a policy which limits the use of paid sick leave until the 120-day period has passed).
- Determine whether your employer requires advance notice of leave. Under the NJPSLA, employers can create policies which require employees to provide notice of leave. Though not all employers may choose to have such policies, you should understand the policies in your workplace so as to comply with any required notification requirements. Under the Act, employers may only require up to 7 days’ notification for “foreseeable” sick leave (i.e. scheduled appointments, recurring medical treatment, and leave that can be predicted in advance). Employers also have the option of requiring notice of “unforeseeable sick leave” as soon as practicable, provided they notify employees of this requirement.
- Determine whether your employer requires documentation for leave. The Act allows employers to create policies that request documentation from employees in order to support their use of paid sick time under limited circumstances. Reasonable documentation, if required by your employer (such as in cases involving 3+ days of absence or when employers prohibit use of foreseeable sick time on select dates like major holidays), may include any “tangible proof,” such as a form from a school-related parent-teacher conference or a doctor’s note.
- Know that you have rights. Should businesses fail to comply with provisions under the new law, employees may have the right to sue their employers for those violations and seek a recovery of damages resulting from the violation. The Act also includes an anti-retaliation provision which protects employers from an employer’s unlawful adverse action within 90 days of a protected activity, including filing a complaint, opposing unlawful policies, informing fellow coworkers of their rights, or cooperating with an investigation.
The New Jersey Paid Sick Leave Act is regarded as one of the strongest and broadest laws of its type in the U.S., and expands the rights of workers by providing them with the ability to take days off for things like doctor’s appointments, school meetings for their children, or to aid family members as they obtain needed medical care or recover from various conditions. The Act also carefully accounts for the rights and obligations of employers when it comes to compliance. Our team at Levinson Axelrod, P.A. strongly encourages all workers and employers in New Jersey to take the time to learn more about the law/
You can find more information about the Paid Sick Leave Act by visiting the State of New Jersey labor and workforce development website.