The New Jersey Assembly recently introduced a bill that would require employers to provide paid sick leave to its employees. Under the current version of the bill, employees would accrue 1 hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked. Employees would be permitted to accrue, and carry over from year to year, up to a maximum of 72 hours of paid leave at any one time. This number would be reduced to a 40-hour maximum for small employers – those with less than 10 employees during the preceding calendar year.

Employees would begin accruing leave on January 1, 2014, or after 90 days of employment if the employee’s hire date is later. The bill requires earned sick leave to be paid at the employee’s normal rate of pay or the State minimum wage rate, whichever is greater.

Employees would be permitted to use the paid leave for their own medical care, as defined by the legislation, as well as for medical care for a family member. As it is currently written, the bill defines “family member” expansively to include the employee’s children, grandchildren, siblings, spouse, domestic or civil union partner, parent, or grandparent as well as a spouse or domestic or civil union partner of the employee’s parent or grandparent. It would also include siblings of the employee’s spouse or domestic or civil union partner.

Employers would be permitted to require advanced notice (up to 7 days) if the need to use earned sick leave is foreseeable. In such circumstances, employees would be required to make a reasonable effort to arrange the leave so as not to unduly disrupt the operations of the employer. Employers would also be permitted to require documentation from the employee to substantiate leaves of 3 or more consecutive days.

An Employer would not be required to pay out earned but unused sick leave at the time of separation from employment, unless the employer’s policies or contractual agreements require such payments.

The bill prohibits employers from requiring employees to find replacement coverage as a condition of using the leave.

The bill also prohibits retaliation and/or discrimination against an employee who uses leave or complains about an employer who engages in misconduct with respect to the leave entitlement. In its current form, the bill would provide for fines against employers who violate the provisions of the bill. Aggrieved employees would also be permitted to file a lawsuit to protect their rights under the bill, with the availability of reinstatement, back pay, and attorneys’ fees as potential remedies.

The bill has been referred to the Assembly Labor Committee for further consideration. Check back here for updates on the bill’s progress through the legislature.