Asima J. Ahmad
Attention New Jersey employers: It looks like the Garden State is next in line to require employers to provide paid sick leave to employees. The New Jersey Paid Sick Leave Act has now been passed by both the state assembly and senate, and Governor Phil Murphy is expected to sign the bill into law.
Similar to the paid sick leave laws in other states, New Jersey will mandate that employees accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to a maximum of 40 hours. In the alternative, employers can frontload 40 hours of paid sick time on the first day of each benefit year. This can be done through an existing paid time off (“PTO”) policy, so long as the PTO days can be used for any of the reasons permitted under the Act, and are accrued at an equal or greater rate than what the Act requires. The Act states that employers are not required to permit employees to carry over more than 40 hours of paid sick leave from one benefit year to the next, but it appears that carryover is otherwise required. Additionally, employers are not obligated to pay employees for any accrued but unused time upon their separation from the company.
Under the Act, employees must be permitted to use sick leave benefits for the following reasons:
- Diagnosis, care, or treatment of, or recovery from, their mental or physical illness, injury, or other adverse health condition, or for preventive medical care;
- Aiding or caring for a family member during diagnosis, care, or treatment of, or recovery from, their mental or physical illness, injury, or other adverse health condition, or for preventive medical care for the family member;
- Leave due to the employee’s or family member’s status as a victim of domestic or sexual violence, if the leave is to obtain medical attention, services from a designated agency, counseling, relocation, or legal services;
- Time when the employee’s workplace or the employee’s child’s school or childcare is closed by order of a public official due to an epidemic or public health emergency; or
- Time needed to attend a child’s school-related conference, meeting, or function.
Notably, “family member” is defined broadly and includes anyone “whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship.” The Act prohibits employers from retaliating or discriminating against an employee who requests or uses earned sick leave, or files a complaint with the commissioner due to the employer’s violation of the Act’s provisions.
The Act will go into effect 180 days after the Governor signs the bill so New Jersey employers still have time to review their leave policies and practices. We are hopeful that further guidance will be issued before the bill becomes effective. Blank Rome’s attorneys are available to answer questions regarding this new sick leave law and to evaluate and suggest any necessary revisions to your company’s sick leave policies, paid time off policies, and/or handbook to ensure compliance with the Act’s requirements.