If recently proposed legislation is signed into law, certain private sector employers in New Jersey would be required to provide paid sick leave to their employees. Under new legislation, Assembly Bill No. 4125, introduced on May 20, 2013, employers would be required to “provide earned sick leave to each employee working for the employer…. For every 30 hours worked, the employee shall accrue one hour of earned sick leave.”
However, this requirement would not be open-ended, as the legislation proposes caps on the maximum time-off that could be accrued. For those employees working for a “small employer,” namely, those with less than 10 employees, an employee can earn no more than 40 hours of paid sick leave each year. For employers with more than 10 employees, an employee can earn up to 75 hours of paid sick leave. This time could not be carried over from year to year.
In addition to establishing the maximum amounts of leave that might be available, the bill also sets forth the various reasons for which an employee would be permitted to use paid sick leave. These reasons include the employee taking time off to attend to his or her own diagnosis, treatment and care; to provide aid or care for a family member; or to address issues related to domestic violence affecting the employee or the employee’s family member.
As proposed, the legislation would require the employees to be paid “at the same rate of pay with the same benefits as the employee normally earns, except that the pay rate may not be less than the State minimum wage.” In addition, employers would be responsible for filling the gap left in the workforce by the employee using paid sick leave time, as the law would prohibit employers from requiring those employees on leave to find their own replacement worker as a condition of using their paid sick leave.
However, the employer should have some time to plan for this absence, because the law would require an employee seeking to use paid sick leave to provide notice to their employer (if possible, 7 days), and would require employees to “make a reasonable effort to schedule use of earned sick leave in a manner that does not unduly disrupt the operations of the employer.” Further, in the event of sick leave lasting three or more consecutive days, an employee would need to provide documentation that the leave is being taken for a permitted purpose, assuming the employer requests such documentation. Violations under this proposed new law would be regarded as violation of the New Jersey State Wage and Hour Law, with penalties consistent with that law.
While some employers already provide paid sick leave benefits to employees, this law would mandate such a benefit and create yet another compliance obligation for the New Jersey business community. It is yet to be seen how this newly introduced bill will be received by the Legislature, but it is reasonable to anticipate that business-owners, both small and large, may voice their concerns over the potential State-mandated benefit. This is one more piece of proposed legislation that employers need to keep an eye on so that they can adequately prepare for the potential new compliance obligation.