The New Jersey Paid Sick Leave Act
October 3, 2018
Types : Alerts
Beginning on October 29, 2018, the New Jersey Paid Sick Leave Act (“the Act”) will require employers to provide paid sick leave to their employees. Paid sick leave is time off of work that is compensated at an employee’s regular rate of pay. Employees will accrue paid sick leave based on the number of hours worked, up to a maximum of forty (40) hours per year. The Act preempts any previously-applicable local laws requiring paid sick leave.
Employers and Employees Subject to Act.
Employers: The Act defines “Employer” broadly, including “any person, firm, business, educational institution, nonprofit agency, corporation, limited liability company or other entity that employs employees in the State, including a temporary help service firm.” The only exception to the definition of “Employer” is for public employers that offer sick leave pursuant to other laws. This definition means that any private employer with even one employee in the State of New Jersey will be required to offer paid sick leave to that employee.
Employees: Any individual “engaged in service to an employer in the business of the employer for compensation” is an “employee” under the Act, except for per diem health care employees, individuals performing services in the construction industry under a collective bargaining agreement, and public employees provided with sick leave pursuant to other laws and regulations.
Sick Leave Entitlement. The Act will allow employees to accrue paid sick leave in one of two ways:
- Accrual: Employees will accrue one (1) hour of paid sick leave for every thirty (30) hours worked; or
- “Front-loading”: Employers may provide an employee with the full complement of earned sick leave for a benefit year on the first day of each benefit year.
In either case, an employer is not required to permit an employee to accrue or use more than forty (40) hours of paid sick leave in any benefit year, or to permit an employee to carry over more than forty (40) hours from one year to the next. Employers that already offer paid time off (personal days, vacation days, and sick days) accruing at a rate equal to or greater than the rate in the Act will be deemed compliant with the Act, provided they permit employees to use that leave for the purposes of and in the manner provided in the Act (see below re: use of leave, timing, and notification).
Employee Use of Sick Leave. The Act provides a specific list of purposes for which employees can use accrued sick time, including:
(1) time needed for diagnosis, care, 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;
(2) time needed for the employee to aid or care for a family member under the conditions outlined in (1) above;
(3) absence necessary due to the employee, or a family member of the employee, being a victim of domestic or sexual violence;
(4) time needed for workplace, school, or childcare closures ordered by a public official due to an epidemic or other public health emergency; or
(5) time needed in connection with a school-related conference, meeting, or other function.
Employers are not required to offer sick leave for purposes other than those listed in the Act, and may take disciplinary action against employees who use sick leave for other reasons. They may also choose the increments in which employees are permitted to use accrued sick leave (such as full days, half days, or hourly).
The Act prohibits employers from taking retaliatory action against an employee who requests or uses paid sick leave.
Timing. An employee working for an employer on October 29, 2018 will start to accrue sick leave on that date, and the employee will be eligible to use the leave beginning 120 days after the employee began employment. Therefore, an employee who has been working for an employer for more than 120 days as of October 29 will be able to use paid sick leave as soon as it is earned.
Any individual hired after October 29 will begin to accrue sick leave on the date employment begins, and they will be eligible to use accrued sick leave 120 days later. Employers can choose to forgo these fixed wait periods and permit their employees to start using accrued leave at an earlier date.
Employee and Employer Notification. Employers can require employees to provide up to seven days’ advance notice of the need to take sick leave if the need is foreseeable. They may also prohibit employees from using foreseeable sick leave on certain dates. If sick leave that is not foreseeable is used during these blackout periods, employers may require employees to provide reasonable documentation. Employers may also require documentation for sick leave of three or more consecutive days. Employers may not require an employee to find a replacement worker to cover the hours during which the employee is using earned sick leave.
The Act also mandates that employers notify employees of their rights and remedies under the Act by conspicuously posting a workplace notice to be developed by the Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development in an area that is accessible to all employees. Employers must also provide each employee with a written copy of the notice (i) within 30 days of the notice being drafted; (ii) at the time of the employee’s hiring; or (iii) at any time the employee requests the notice. The notice must be in both English and Spanish, as well as in any other language the employer deems appropriate.
Employer Recordkeeping Requirements. The Act requires employers to keep any documentation relating to an employee’s hours worked and earned sick leave taken for five (5) years.
What New Jersey Employers Should Do Now. With an October 29, 2018 effective date, employers have less than one month to familiarize themselves with and implement the Act’s key provisions. Employers should ensure their paid time off and/or leave policies comply with the Act. Employers that do not do so will be subject to the penalties and remedies under the New Jersey State Wage and Hour Law for failure to pay required wages. Contact your employment attorney for a policy that complies with the Act and with any questions about the Act’s coverage, employee accrual and use of paid sick leave, and employer obligations under the Act.