On December 17, 2015, the New Jersey Senate passed legislation that would require New Jersey employers of any size to provide employees with paid sick leave. The bill was received by the Assembly on December 21, 2015, and referred to the Assembly Human Services Committee. If passed by the House and signed by the Governor, the bill would take effect 120 days after its enactment.
Leave Amount and Accrual
The bill requires small employers (10 employees or less) to provide up to forty (40) hours of paid sick leave and large employers (employers with more than 10 employees) to provide up to seventy-two (72) hours of sick leave. Employees would accrue paid sick leave at a rate of one (1) hour for every thirty (30) hours worked. In lieu of the accrual periods, employers may provide employees with a full complement of earned sick leave on the first day of each benefit year.
Permissible Use of Paid Time and Notice Requirements
The bill permits employees to use accrued paid sick leave for: (1) the employee’s own mental or physical illness or for preventive medical care; (2) the care of a family member’s mental or physical illness or preventative medical care; (3) absences due to circumstances resulting from the employee or a family member of the employee being a victim of domestic or sexual violence; or (4) specified closures related to orders from the public health authority.
When the absence is foreseeable, employers can require that employees provide the employer with up to seven (7) calendar days advance notice of their need for sick leave. When the absence is unforeseeable, notice is required as soon as practicable.
Posting and Record Keeping Requirements
The proposed bill requires the Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development to issue a written notice that employers must post in a conspicuous location in the workplace and provide a copy of which to all employees within thirty (30) days of the notice’s issuance. Additionally, employers will be required to provide a copy of the notice to all employees at the time of hire and upon an employee’s request.
Employers will also be required to retain records for five (5) years detailing the number of hours each employee works as well as the number of paid sick leave hours used.
Impact on Existing and Future Municipal Laws
The bill would prohibit counties and municipalities from adopting their own paid sick leave ordinances and preempt existing ordinances which provide lesser protections than those provided under the bill. That said, any local legislation adopted prior to the effective date of the bill that provides protections equal to or greater than those provided by the bill may continue to be enforced.
Prohibition Against Retaliation
As drafted, the bill prohibits Employers from discriminating or retaliating against an employee for exercising his/her rights under the bill. Moreover, there would be a rebuttable presumption of retaliation when an employer takes an adverse action against an employee within 90 days of that employee: (1) filing a complaint with the department or a court alleging a violation of this act; (2) informing any person about or cooperates with an investigation or prosecution of an employer’s alleged violation; (3) opposing any policy, practice or act that is unlawful under the act; or (4) informing any person of his/her rights under the act.
Violation of the bill would carry penalties as set forth in New Jersey’s State Wage and Hour Law including: (1) being found guilty of a disorderly persons offense which carries with it, upon conviction for a first time offense, fines between $100 and $1,000 or imprisonment for a period of at least 10 but no more than 90 days and, upon conviction of a subsequent violation, fines between $500 and $1,000 or imprisonment for a period of at least 10 but no more than 100 days or by both a fine and imprisonment; (2) administrative penalties (up to a maximum of $250 for a first time violation and $500 for each subsequent violation); and (3) attorneys’ fees and costs. The bill further provides for an award in the amount of the actual damages suffered by the employee, plus an equal amount in liquidated damages.