On October 29, 2018, New Jersey's Paid Sick Leave Act becomes effective and New Jersey will be the 10th state to have such a statute.
The law will impact virtually all employers operating in the state of New Jersey. Excluded from the law are construction employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement, per diem healthcare employees, and public sector employees who already have sick leave benefits.
The law provides that employers of any size (meaning no minimum number of employees) must grant up to 40 hours of sick time annually at an accrual rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked or provide an upfront amount of 40 hours at the beginning of a benefit year. If an employer already has paid personal days, vacation days, sick day policies or other paid time off (PTO), then those policies may satisfy the new law.
The types of absences covered are:
- Diagnosis, care or treatment of—or recovery from—an employee's own mental or physical illness, including preventive medical care.
- Aid or care for a covered family member during diagnosis, care or treatment of—or recovery from—the family member's mental or physical illness, including preventive medical care.
- Circumstances related to an employee's or her or his family member's status as a victim of domestic or sexual violence (including the need to obtain related medical treatment, seek counseling, relocate or participate in related legal services).
- Closure of an employee's workplace or of a school/childcare of an employee's child because of a public official's order relating to a public health emergency.
- Time to attend a meeting requested or required by school staff to discuss a child's health condition or disability.
The act broadly defines "family member" to include individuals related by blood to the employee or whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship. Employers may not require an employee to find a replacement to cover the employee's absence.
Some other interesting elements are:
- The employee is permitted to carry over 40 hours of sick time unless the employer chooses to “buy out” the time by paying the employee in the final month of the benefit year for any unused sick time. It is the employer’s option whether to do that and does not require employee consent.
- Employees can be required to use a full day’s time as a minimum sick leave. In other words, if the employee works a 7 hour shift, then the employer can require that the employee use at least 7 hours of paid sick leave for an absence, or for 8 hour shifts the employer could require the employee to use at least 8 hours for any absence covered by the law and so on.
- Part-time employees are covered as well.
- The employer can require that the employee provide advance notice (up to 7 days) if the absence is foreseeable such as a planned medical procedure. In the event of an unforeseeable circumstance, the employer can ask that the employer be given notice as soon as practicable and, in the event that there's an absence of more than three days, the employer could require documentation from the employee that the sick leave was for a covered purpose.
- There is an anti-retaliation provision that allows for actual damages as well as an equal amount in liquidated damages. For any adverse action taken against the employee within 90 days of engaging in protected activity under the law, there is a rebuttable presumption that the employer action was unlawful.
We trust this is helpful. It you have any questions about compliance with the law, including whether your existing policies satisfy the requirements, please feel free to contact us.
Charles A. Ercole, Esquire
Klehr Harrison Harvey Branzburg LLP
direct dial 215.569.4282