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No Pain? No Gain. New Jersey Workers Are Entitled to Paid Sick Leave.Francis A. Kenny

Americans overwhelmingly sympathize with workers who need to be able to take time off of work without penalty. States across the nation, including New Jersey, have started to implement comprehensive legislation aiming at providing paid sick leave to employees.

On October 29, 2018, the New Jersey Paid Sick Leave Act (“Act”) went into effect, guaranteeing that nearly all New Jersey employees accrue paid sick leave time. The Act is one of the most sweeping paid leave legislations in the United States. Given its breadth of coverage, it is imperative that employers and employees alike make themselves aware of the provisions of the Act.

The Act requires New Jersey employers to provide covered employees with one hour of paid leave for every 30 hours worked, with a maximum of 40 hours of accrued paid sick leave per year. The Act allows an employee to carry-over up to 40 hours of unused sick time.

The Act applies to any business entity, irrespective of size, that employs employees in New Jersey. Employers with exiting paid time off (PTO), personal days, vacation days, and sick-day policies may utilize those policies to satisfy the requirements of the Act as long as employees can use the time off as required by the Act.

The Act applies to most employees, both part time and full time, working in the state “for compensation” except for construction industry employees working under a collective bargaining agreement, per diem health care employees who meet certain requirements, and public employees already provided with fully paid sick leave under any other New Jersey law, rule, or regulation. Notably, if an employee lives in New Jersey but works in another state, that employee will not be covered by the Act. New Jersey’s neighboring states of New York, Pennsylvania, and Delaware have yet to implement similar paid sick leave laws; therefore, New Jersey residents that commute to these states may be out of luck.

Under the Act, employees may use sick leave to, among other things: (1) diagnose, care, employee’s treat or recover from the employee’s or their family member’s mental or physical illness; (2) seek preventative medical care for themselves or a family member; (3) in the case of victims of domestic violence, seek medical attention, seek legal services, or attend legal proceedings; (4) leave workplace, when an employee is unable to work due to closure of the workplace, or school or place of childcare by a public official due to an epidemic, public health emergency, or where there is a concern that a health issue could jeopardize the health of others; and (5) attend school-related events, including conferences, meetings and other activities requested by a school, teacher or administrator.

New Jersey employers may face severe consequences, including civil and criminal penalties, if they violate the Act. Failure to comply with the Act may give rise to a private right of action against an employer by the New Jersey Department of Labor or a civil lawsuit. For the foregoing reasons, it is crucial that all employers in New Jersey ensure that they follow the strict provisions of the Act.