The New Jersey Paid Sick Leave Act (“Act”) was signed into law on May 2, 2018 and goes into effect on October 29, 2018.
New Jersey employers, regardless of size, will be required to provide up to 40 hours of paid sick leave per year to covered employees.
Which Employees and Employers Are Covered By the Act?
Employees are defined by the Act to mean an individual “engaged in service to an employer. . .for compensation.” The Act expressly excludes employees in the construction industry who are governed by a collective bargaining agreement with a union, per diem health care employees and public employees who already have sick leave benefits per statute or regulation. But any business entity that employs employees in the State of New Jersey is covered by the Act, including temporary help firms.
How Can Employees Accrue Sick Leave?
The Act requires an employer to designate a period of twelve consecutive months as a “benefit year.” For example, an employer could characterize a calendar year – January 1 through December 31 as a “benefit year.” Current employees begin accruing sick time upon the effective date of the Act, October 29, 2018. New employees hired after October 29, 2018 will begin accruing sick time on the first day of their employment, but would not be able to take the accrued sick leave until the 120th calendar day after the employee began employment. Thereafter, an employee can use earned sick leave as soon as it is accrued.
An employer complies with the Act if it already offers paid time off which is fully paid and includes, but is not limited to, personal days, vacation days and sick days, as long as the paid sick time can be used for the purposes set forth in the Act and is accrued at a rate equal to or greater than the rate permitted by the Act. An employee can accrue up to 40 hours of sick time at a rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked. Employers are free to provide employees with the full 40 hours at the beginning of the designated benefit year if they choose to do so. In any event, employers are not required to permit employees to use more than 40 hours of accrued sick leave in any designated benefit year. The Act provides employers with discretion as to the increments in which the employee may use accrued sick time. The largest increment may not be larger than the number of hours an employee is scheduled to work in a given shift.
What Can The Sick Leave Be Used For?
Employees can use accrued sick time for any of the following reasons:
- Time needed for the diagnosis, care or treatment of, or recovery from, an employee’s mental or physical illness, injury or other adverse health condition, or for preventive medical care for the employee;
- To aid or care for a covered family member during diagnosis, care or treatment of, or recovery from, the family member’s mental or physical illness, including preventive care. “Family Member” is broadly defined to include individuals related by blood to the employee or “whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship.” The Act specifically includes child, grandchild, sibling, spouse, domestic partner, civil union partner, parent, or grandparent of an employee, or a spouse, domestic partner or civil partner of a parent or grandparent of the employee, or a sibling of any spouse, domestic partner or civil union partner of the employee;
- Circumstances related to an employee or their family member’s status as a victim of domestic or sexual violence, including the need to obtain related medical treatment, seek counseling, relocate or participate in related legal services;
- For the closure of an employee’s workplace or of a school/child care facility because of a public official’s order relating to a public health emergency; and
- Time to attend a meeting requested or required by school staff to discuss a child’s health condition or disability.
Are There Any Rules For Carryover And Pay-Out?
Employers are not required to allow employees to carry more than 40 hours of accrued sick time in a single benefit year. Employers can, but are not obligated to, offer to pay employees for unused accrued sick time in the final month of a benefit year. The employee can choose to receive the payment in the full amount of the unused accrued sick time or 50% of such unused accrued sick time. The amount paid to the employee shall be based on the same rate of pay that the employee earns at the time of payment.
What Happens After Separation Or Reinstatement Of An Employee?
Unless an employer has a policy that states otherwise, the Act does not require an employer to pay employees for unused accrued sick time upon separation from employment for any reason. If, however, an employee who is separated is then reinstated within six months, all of the employee’s unused and accrued sick time must be reinstated.
Is Notice And Documentation Required From The Employee?
If the need for leave is foreseeable, employers may require advance notice not to exceed seven calendar days of an employee’s intention to use the leave and the amount of leave necessary. Employers are allowed to require employees to make a reasonable effort to schedule the use of the sick time in a manner that will not unduly disrupt the operations of the employer. Employers that have certain critical dates on the calendar for their business may prohibit employees from using foreseeable sick leave on these certain dates and require documentation if leave that is not foreseeable is used during those dates. If an employee is absent for at least three consecutive days, an employer may require documentation that confirms the employee used the sick leave for a purpose covered by the Act.
Employers must post a notification of employee’s rights under the Act and provide employees with a written copy of the notice within thirty days after the Department of Labor in New Jersey issues a model notice and each time thereafter when an employee is hired or requests such a notice. Records must be kept by the employer for a period of five years.
The Act also pre-empts all existing and future municipal ordinances in New Jersey regarding paid sick time. Therefore, the paid sick leave ordinances that have been passed by numerous New Jersey municipalities will no longer be valid once the October 29, 2018 effective date of the Act occurs.
New Jersey employers and those with employees in New Jersey should immediately prepare for the implementation of New Jersey’s Paid Sick Leave Law. If there are any questions concerning its coverage, please contact an attorney from our Employment Law Group. We will be happy to help you administrate this Act and/or draft any policies to update your employee handbooks and other manuals.