On Tuesday, January 28, 2014, the City Council for Newark, New Jersey, passed a city ordinance requiring paid sick leave for almost every employee who works in the City.  It is expected that Newark Mayor Luis Quintana will sign it into law in the near future.  Once signed into law, the ordinance will take effect in 120 days.   The new law would apply to employees who work at least 80 hours in a calendar year in the city of Newark, regardless of where they are based.

This Newark ordinance is very similar to an ordinance passed in Jersey City in September, which went into effect on January 24.  (See our prior postings on the Jersey City ordinance here, here, and here).  The Newark ordinance, like the Jersey City ordinance, provides for 1 hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked for employees who have worked at least 80 hours in a calendar year.  For both ordinances, paid sick time begins to accrue on the first day of employment but cannot be used until the 90th day of employment.  Additionally, unused sick time may be carried over to the following year, though employers can limit employees from taking any more than 40 hours in any calendar year.  However, the Newark ordinance, unlike the Jersey City counterpart, permits an employer to pay employees for unused paid sick time at the end of the calendar year instead of permitting the employee to carry it over.  Both ordinances permit the paid sick leave to be used to care for one’s own mental or physical illness or that of a family member, with family member defined very broadly.  Also, both ordinances require employers to give individual written notice to each employee at the commencement of employment and to display a poster setting forth their rights under the law.  The notice must include the right to paid sick time, the accrual rate and amount of paid sick time, the terms of its use, the right to be free from retaliation for exercising rights under the law, and the right to a private cause of action for interference or retaliation.   

One big difference between the Newark and Jersey City laws is their treatment of small employers (those with fewer than 10 employees).  Under Jersey City’s law, small employers are not required to provide paid sick leave, but must provide unpaid sick leave (accruing at the same rate up to 40 hours).  Under the Newark law, both small (fewer than 10 employees) and large (10 or more employees) employers must provide paid leave, but small employers only need to provide up to 24 hours of paid leave, while large employers must provide up to 40 hours of paid leave. 

Neither the Newark nor the Jersey City ordinance applies to employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement that is in effect at the time of the effective date of the respective law.  However, under the Newark law, when any existing collective bargaining agreement expires, the new one can expressly waive the paid sick leave requirements.  The Jersey City law does not provide for waiver in subsequent collective bargaining agreements. 

In addition to these two ordinances, there is a bill pending in the NJ state legislature for paid sick leave since last Spring, which we posted about here. Although Governor Chris Christie has not given any indication whether he would sign it into law, lobbyists are hoping that the fact that two major New Jersey cities (Newark and Jersey City) have passed similar legislation will pressure him to do so.  The statewide bill would also permit employees to accrue 1 hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked.  The state bill would permit up to 72 hours of leave for large employers with the ability to carry over unused leave to the following year.  However, under the state version, employees would not begin accruing leave until 90 days of employment.