New Sick Leave Requirements
Earlier this month, Governor Phil Murphy signed an important new employment law that requires employers to provide paid sick leave to their employees. Specifically, New Jersey’s new paid sick leave law requires employers to provide most employees one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours they work. Employers must permit employees to use this earned sick leave for:
- The employee’s diagnosis, care, treatment, or recovery from a mental or physical illness or injury, or preventive medical care;
- To care for a family member during diagnosis, care, treatment, or recovery from a mental or physical illness or injury, or preventive medical care;
- Time off resulting from the employee or their family member being the victim of domestic or sexual violence to receive medical attention, counseling, services from a domestic violence agency or victim services organization, or legal services such as to obtain a restraining order or to participate in a related civil or criminal proceeding;
- The closure of the employee’s workplace, or the employee’s child’s school or child care facility, due to a public health emergency; or
- To attend a school-related meeting or event requested or required by the school relating to the employee’s child, or relating to a health condition or disability of the employee’s child.
The new law’s definition of “family member” includes: (1) the employee’s child, grandchild, sibling, spouse, domestic partner, civil union partner, parent, or grandparent; (2) the spouse, domestic partner, or civil union partner of the employee’s parent or grandparent; (3) a sibling of a spouse, domestic partner, or civil union partner of the employee; or (4) “any other individual related by blood to the employee or whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship.”
Under New Jersey’s new paid sick leave law, employers are not required to allow employees to earn more than 40 hours of paid sick leave per year. They have the option to offer to pay employees for unused sick leave at the end of the year. Employees then have 10 days to decide whether to accept the offer, and can chose to be paid for all or 50% of their unused sick leave days. Employees can carry forward any unused sick leave that they are not paid for at the end of the year, although employers are not required to allow them to carry over more than 40 hours of paid sick leave.
Employers can comply with the law by providing enough personal or vacation days which employees can use for all of the reasons for which the law requires employers to provide sick days.
Strong Anti-Retaliation Provisions
The statute also includes an anti-retaliation provision which prohibits actions such as firing, threatening to fire, suspending, demoting, or giving unfavorable job assignment to an employee because he or she: (1) requested or used sick leave earned either under the new law or under a company policy; (2) filed a lawsuit or claim with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights under the act; or (3) told someone else about their rights under the act. Employers also are prohibited from considering sick days an employee takes pursuant to the new law when taking disciplinary actions. Notably, any negative personnel action taken within 90 days after any activity protected from retaliation under the statute is presumed to be retaliatory unless the employer can prove otherwise.
The new law requires employers to treat as confidential information about the health of employees and their family members, as well as issues relating to domestic or sexual violence impacting employees or their family members, meaning they cannot disclose that information to anyone else without the employee’s written permission.
The law goes into effect on October 29, 2018. However, employers that do not already provide paid sick leave to their employees are not required to start letting them accrue sick leave for an additional 120 days, meaning until February 26, 2019.