The New Jersey Senate has again approved a bill, S-799, that requires New Jersey employers to provide paid sick leave to workers in the state for:

  1. the diagnosis, care, or treatment of, or recovery from, an employee’s mental or physical illness, injury or other adverse health condition, or for preventative medical care for the employee
  2. care for a family member during diagnosis, care or treatment of, or recovery from, the family member’s mental or physical illness, injury or other adverse health condition, or preventative medical care for the family member
  3. obtaining medical attention, counselling, relocation, legal or other services due to circumstances resulting from an employee or family member being a victim of domestic or sexual violence

The bill, identical to the bill which cleared the Senate last year but never made its way to the Governor’s desk, requires businesses to grant workers one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked – capping mandatory accrual at 72 hours for “large” businesses of 10 or more employees and 40 hours for “small” businesses of less than 10 employees. Additional details of the bill are summarized in our December blog post.

While legislation in this area is fuelled by growing grassroots efforts for sick pay across the country, the future and ultimate passage of the bill in its present form remains uncertain – particularly since the reintroduced legislation contains the same provision which caused the bill to stall last year. Specifically, the Senate bill precludes municipalities from enacting new local ordinances imposing stricter leave rights but grandfathers existing municipal sick leave laws already passed in the State (presently in Bloomfield, East Orange, Elizabeth, Irvington, Jersey City, Montclair, Newark, New Brunswick, Paterson, and Passaic). In contrast, former versions of an Assembly bill for paid sick leave not only failed to pre-empt existing municipal paid leave laws that provided equal or greater paid sick leave benefits, but also allowed other municipalities to adopt stricter sick leave ordinances. Legislators in 2015 never reached compromise on this term.

Either approach – whether with limited grandfathering or with no preclusion of future municipal acts – forces employers to wade through a patchwork of laws that have varying requirements depending on the municipality where an employee works. Allowing the future passage of new and amended municipal ordinances and/or retaining existing municipal laws only further complicates management’s compliance efforts and fails to provide one set of cohesive rules with which New Jersey employers must follow.

The new Senate bill, like its earlier counterparts, is strongly opposed by a number of business organizations, including the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, the New Jersey State Chamber of Commerce, the New Jersey Food Council, the New Jersey Restaurant Association, the New Jersey Retail Merchants Association and the National Federation of Independent Businesses. Leaders in these organizations have rejected claims that passage of the bill will create a healthier and safer work environment for New Jersey residents. Instead, they contend that the imposition of mandatory paid sick leave requirements will hurt New Jersey businesses, particularly smaller employers who might be forced to reduce work hours, limit other employee benefits or even downsize to afford the additional costs of providing such leave. Opponents also urge that passage of such a law is unnecessary in New Jersey, noting that many companies in the state already provide paid sick leave.