New Jersey Paid Sick Leave Act to Take Effect
On May 2, Gov. Phil Murphy signed the New Jersey Paid Sick Leave Act into law — becoming the tenth state to enact a statewide mandatory sick leave law. The Act takes effect Oct. 29, and will require New Jersey employers of all sizes to provide their eligible employees with up to forty hours of paid sick leave per year. Additionally, the law preempts municipal paid sick leave ordinances, helping to standardize obligations for businesses that have employees working in more than one jurisdiction in the state.
Covered employers include business entities of any size that hire staff in New Jersey, including temporary help services, and excluding public employers that are already required to provide paid sick leave. Most employees working in New Jersey for compensation are eligible to accrue paid sick leave time. Exceptions from coverage include, construction industry workers employed under a collective bargaining agreement, per diem healthcare employees, and public employees who have existing sick leave benefits.
The Act allows employees to take earned paid sick leave time for:
- Diagnosis, care, treatment of, or recovery from the employee’s mental or physical health condition, including preventive care;
- Diagnosis, care, treatment of, or recovery from a family member's mental or physical health condition, including preventive care;
- Time needed for employees or their family members condition as a victim of domestic or sexual violence, including counseling, legal services, or participation in civil or criminal proceedings;
- Closure of the workplace, school, or childcare by order of a public official due to a public health concern; and
- Attendance at a school-related conference or meeting.
Eligible employees will accrue paid sick leave at a rate of 1 hour for every 30 hours worked up to 40 hours per benefit year. Employees may carry over up to 40 hours of unused earned paid sick leave from one year to the next. Alternatively, employers may offer to pay employees for unused earned sick leave in the final month of the benefit year, to receive a payment for either the full amount of unused earned sick leave or for 50 percent of the amount. In the latter case, employees would be able to carry the balance of unused earned sick leave to the next benefit year.
Eligible New Jersey employees will accrue paid sick leave at a rate of 1 hour for every 30 hours worked up to 40 hours per benefit year.
Employers may also choose to forego the accrual process for earned sick leave hours and instead frontload the paid sick leave providing eligible employees with the full amount of earned sick leave for a benefit year on the first day of each benefit year. Employers who choose this option must either provide to employees a payment for the full amount of unused earned sick leave in the final month of the benefit year (only if they intend to continue frontloading each year) or permit employees to carry forward all unused sick leave to the next benefit year.
Employees are not entitled to pay for unused earned paid sick leave upon termination; exceptions may apply in the case of company policy and collective bargaining agreements.
Under the new law, businesses must preserve records of hours worked and earned sick leave time utilized per employee for a duration of five years. Employers shall also provide notification, in a form issued by the state, to employees of their rights under this act, including conspicuously posting the notification in a place accessible to all employees in each of the employer's workplaces, and providing to each employee employed by the employer with a written copy of the notification not later than 30 days after the form of the notification is issued by the state; at the time of the employee's hiring, and at any time, when first requested by the employee.
Employers may not discriminate or retaliate against employees for requesting or using earned sick leave time.
Enforcement of the New Jersey Paid Sick Leave Act
Violations of the law will be addressed under New Jersey wage and hour laws, and the state will deem a failure to provide or pay sick leave as a failure to meet wage payment requirements. Violations can subject an employer to pay the owed wages, fines, or liquidated damages.
As New Jersey employers prepare to comply with this law, firms may struggle to understand the requirements. Garden State employers of any size may want to consider the help of an experienced HR professional.