New Jersey Sick Leave Patchwork Mended – Statewide Law Passed! (US)
New Jersey has joined nine other states in requiring employers to provide sick leave to their employees. On May 2, 2018, Governor Phil Murphy signed the New Jersey Paid Sick Leave Act, which requires businesses of all sizes to provide up to 40 hours of paid sick leave to employees per year. Of note for employers with employees in New Jersey, who are all too familiar with the patchwork of sick leave laws enacted by towns and cities across New Jersey, the Act expressly preempts those municipal paid-sick-leave ordinances, providing uniform obligations to businesses operating within the state.
Beginning on October 29, 2018 (or upon commencement of employment for employees hired after that date), employees will accrue one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to 40 hours of sick leave each year. Employees may carryover up to 40 accrued, unused sick leave hours to the next year, but may only use up to 40 hours of paid sick leave per year. Note that the New Jersey law contains a somewhat novel provision that allows the employer to offer to payout unused but accrued sick leave at the end of the year; an employee can accept or reject the offer, or may elect to have half of the leave paid out and the rest (up to 40 hours) carried over.
Employees can use sick leave for reasons relating to their own or a family member’s illness, injury, health condition or preventative medical care, for domestic violence related reasons, public health closures of schools, childcare facilities or the workplace, or to attend school-related conferences or meetings. Family member is broadly defined. As with other sick leave laws, the law also specifies under what circumstances employers can require notice and documentation of sick leave use, and also specifies the recordkeeping requirements. The law requires employers to post a required notice (not yet published) and, if they have an employee handbook, to include in the handbook the notice of rights and remedies provided for under the law.
Employers are required to post notice informing employees of their rights under the Act, as well as providing a written copy of the notification to all employees within 30 days after the state issues an official notice, or upon hire if the employee is hired thereafter. In addition to the official notice, the state will likely publish some guidance on the new law in the next few months. In the meantime, if you have employees in New Jersey, it’s time to revise your paid sick leave policies and get your accrual and use tracking mechanisms ready!