New Jersey lawmakers approve bill mandating 40 hours of paid sick leave annually

The New Jersey Legislature passed a bill that would require employers to provide 40 hours of earned sick leave annually to employees within the state. Employees would accrue earned sick leave at the rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked. Employers would be required to pay employees for earned sick leave at the same pay rate and with the same benefits that the employee normally earns.
The bill, A. 1827, cleared the Assembly on March 26 by a 50-24 vote, and the Senate on April 12 by a 24-12 ballot. The measure is headed to the desk of the state’s Democratic Governor, Phil Murphy.
Under the measure, employers are not required to let employees accrue or use in any benefits year, or carry forward, more than 40 hours of earned sick leave. For employees that have commenced employment prior to the effective date of the bill, accrual of earned sick leave would begin on the bill’s effective date. Other employees will start accruing earned sick leave upon commencement of their employment. Employees would be able to use the earned sick leave beginning on the 120th day after employment commences, unless the employer agrees to an earlier date, and then as soon as the earned sick leave accrues.

Use of earned sick leave.

A. 1827 provides that employees may use earned sick leave for these purposes:

  • Diagnosis, care, treatment, or recovery related to the employee’s illness;
  • Care of a family member during diagnosis, care, treatment, or recovery related to a family member’s illness;
  • Certain absences resulting from the employee or a family member being a victim of domestic or sexual violence;
  • Time during which the employee is not able to work because of a closure of the employee’s workplace, or the school or place of care of a child of the employee, in connection with a public health emergency or a determination that the presence of the employee or child in the community would jeopardize the health of others; or
  • Attending school-related conferences, meetings, or events, or to attend other meetings regarding care for the employee’s child.

Employers would be permitted under the bill to require “reasonable documentation” where an employee seeks leave for three or more consecutive days. Use of foreseeable earned sick leave may be barred on certain dates and “reasonable documentation” required where employees use sick leave that is not foreseeable during those dates.

Payment for unused leave.

Employers may also offer payment for unused earned sick leave in the final month of the benefit year. If the employee declines a payment for unused earned sick leave, or agrees to a partial payment, the employee may carry the leave forward to the following year. If the employee accepts the full payment, the employer must make the entire accrual for the following year available to that employee at the beginning of that year.

Exemptions.

There is an exemption for public employers that provide sick leave pursuant to another New Jersey law. The benefits of A. 1827 would be waivable by an employee representative during collective bargaining negotiations.

Retaliation.

The bill would also bar retaliatory actions against an employee for using or requesting to use earned sick leave, or for filing a complaint about an employer violation of the bill’s provisions.

Effective date and preemption.

A. 1827 would be effective 180 days after it is enacted. After the effective date of the bill, counties and municipalities would be barred from adopting new requirements concerning earned sick leave. Moreover, the bill’s provisions would preempt existing local requirements.

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