Earlier this year, New Jersey joined the list of many states enacting a statewide mandatory paid sick leave law. The New Jersey Paid Sick Leave Act (the Act), effective as of October 29, 2018, requires all “covered employers” to provide up to forty (40) hours of annual sick leave to their employees. The recent mandate marks a significant development for employers and employees in the state as it may require substantial changes to sick leave policies maintained by healthcare practices and other employers.
Unlike the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and its state counterpart, the New Jersey Family Leave Act (NJFLA), the Act applies broadly to any business entity, irrespective of size, that employs employees in the state of New Jersey, and covers most employees working in the state, with only a few exceptions to whom the Act would not apply, such as per diem healthcare employees for example.
Notable elements of the Act include:
- Mandatory Sick Leave: Employers must have a sick leave policy under which an eligible employee would earn at least 1 hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked.
- Qualifying Reasons for the Use of Leave: The Act details certain reasons for which the earned sick leave can be used:
- Diagnosis, care, treatment of or recovery from an employee’s own physical or mental illness
- Aid or care for a covered family member during diagnosis, care, treatment of or recovery from the family’s members physical or mental illness
- Circumstances relating to the status of the employee or a family member of the employee as a victim of domestic or sexual violence
- Closure of an employee’s workplace or of a school/childcare of an employee’s minor child because of a public official’s order relating to a public health emergency
- Time to attend a meeting requested/required by school staff to discuss a child’s health condition or disability
- Carryover or Payout of Unused Leave: Up to 40 hours of unused earned sick leave may be carried over to the following benefit year. However, the employer is not required to permit employees to use more than 40 hours of accrued sick leave within a single benefit year. In lieu of carrying hours over into the next benefit year, Employers have the option of paying employees for their unused accrued sick time at the end of the applicable benefit year
- Notice Prior to Use of Leave: An employer is permitted to require advance notice of up to seven (7) calendar days prior to the use of foreseeable sick leave. The employer may also require employees to make a reasonable effort to schedule use of sick leave in a manner that does not unduly disrupt operations, and may also prohibit use of leave on certain dates, unless the leave is unforeseeable in nature. The employer may require employees to notify employer of their intent to use earned leave for an unforeseeable qualifying reason as soon as practicable.
Employers must notify all current employees of the rights afforded under the new earned sick leave policy by November 29, 2018, and must post a copy of a notice approved by the state in a noticeable location within the workplace.
An employer’s failure to comply with the Act could result in potential liability for lost actual wages as well as liquidated damages. As such, employers should act promptly to review their current paid time off policy and employee handbook and amend them accordingly.
For assistance in ensuring that your policies comply with the new regulations, or if you have questions about the implications of the Act for your practice, contact Frier Levitt today to speak to an attorney.