Following a growing trend in states and localities, New Jersey has become the eleventh state (not including the District of Columbia) to implement a paid sick leave law. This new Earned Sick Leave Law is effective as of October 29, 2018, and preempts over a dozen local paid sick leave laws in New Jersey. The Earned Sick Leave Law, which applies to all private employers regardless of size, requires that, beginning October 29, 2018, employers provide one hour of paid leave to New Jersey employees for every 30 hours the employee works, up to 40 hours per year, or, alternatively, that employers provide employees with no less than 40 hours of earned sick leave on the first day of the employer’s benefit year.

Under the new law, up to 40 hours of accrued, but unused, leave can be carried over into the next benefit year. The amount of leave an employee can take in any benefit year may be capped at 40 hours. Employees eligible for earned sick and safe leave include employees who perform all their work in New Jersey (including telecommuters), and will likely also include employees who routinely perform some work in New Jersey so long as the employee’s base of operations is in New Jersey, or the employee’s work is directed and/or controlled from New Jersey.

This earned leave (which employees can begin using on February 26, 2019, or on the 120th calendar day after the employee commences employment, whichever is later) can be used for a variety of reasons including:

  • To diagnose, care for, treat, or recover from an employee’s own physical or mental illness, injury, or other adverse health condition; or for preventative medical care for the employee.
  • To aid or care for a family member during diagnosis of, care of, treatment of, or recovery from the family member’s physical or mental illness, injury, or other adverse health condition; or for preventative medical care for the family member.
  • To obtain medical treatment, counseling, or prepare for legal proceedings for the employee or a family member where the employee or the employee’s family member has been the victim of domestic violence or sexual violence.
  • Closure of an employee’s workplace, or of an employee’s child’s school, due to an epidemic or other public health emergency.
  • To attend a school-related conference, meeting, function, or event related to the employee’s child’s education or a school-related meeting regarding the employee’s child’s health.

The definition of “family member” under the law is broad and covers “any…individual related by blood to the employee or whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship.”

The New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development recently published proposed new rules in connection with the Earned Sick Leave Law. The comment period for these rules runs through December 14, 2018, after which time the Department will adopt final rules on earned sick leave. Some of the outstanding issues to be addressed in the final guidance include the administrative penalties associated with non-compliance, and the test for ascertaining whether an individual who works both within New Jersey and outside of New Jersey is entitled to receive earned sick leave.

In the interim, employers with employees working in New Jersey should review their handbooks and internal policies to ensure compliance with the Earned Sick Leave law and begin tracking leave accruals for eligible employees. Employers should also post and distribute the mandatory notice promulgated by the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development by November 29, 2018 (available here).