For most workers in the U.S., paid sick leave is a benefit conferred by their employer, solely based on the employer’s determination that it is a worthwhile investment. If an employer were to stop offering paid sick leave to its employees, they would have no recourse other than finding another job. No federal law requires paid sick leave, and only a handful of states—not including New Jersey or New York—have enacted laws mandating a minimum amount of paid sick leave. The news is not all dire, though. Thirteen cities in New Jersey have enacted their own paid sick leave laws. Morristown, New Jersey is the latest town to do so, although the mayor has reportedly delayed its implementation until early 2017. Employees of certain government contractors will soon benefit from a new Department of Labor (DOL) Final Rule, which takes effect at the end of November 2016.
Allowing workers to stay home due to an illness, without losing several days’ pay, seems like a sensible policy, at least when looking at society at large. Employees who cannot afford to lose the income may go into work despite being sick. This can spread illnesses like the flu, ultimately causing even bigger problems. While the Family Medical Leave Act allows unpaid leave for certain purposes, federal law makes no provision for paid sick leave. Only five states have paid sick leave laws: California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Oregon, and Vermont. In a nationwide sense, it is generally up to individual employers to decide whether or not to offer it to their employees. On a solely individual level, an employer might not see the value of giving paid sick leave to its workers. Businesses may not like regulations, but sometimes they serve a very important purpose.
Morristown became the 13th New Jersey municipality to enact a paid sick leave law in September 2016. Ordinance O-35-2016 describes the numerous societal benefits of allowing employees to earn paid sick leave, including “reduc[ing] recovery time” and “reduc[ing] the likelihood of people spreading illness to other members of the workforce and to the public.” Employees earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours that they work, up to a maximum of 24 hours (three work days) in a calendar year for employers with fewer than 10 employees, and 40 hours (five days) for employers with 10 or more employees. Additional exceptions apply, depending on various circumstances.
The debate over the bill in the city council, as reported by local news media, illustrates the competing interests at work. Proponents of the ordinance described it as “a human need,” while critics called it “an unfunded mandate” and argued that it should remain in the hands of employers to use “as a tool to reward workers who excel.” The ordinance was passed in early September 2016 and originally scheduled to take effect in October. In late September, however, the mayor issued an executive order delaying the ordinance until January 2017, reportedly to give employers more time to prepare.
At the federal level, the DOL issued a Final Rule regarding paid sick leave for certain federal contractors, 81 Fed. Reg. 67598 (Sep. 30, 2016), which will take effect on November 29. Like the Morristown ordinance, it states that employees of covered employers may accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to a maximum of 56 hours in a year.
If you need to speak to an FMLA attorney regarding a matter in New Jersey or New York, contact the Resnick Law Group online, at 973-781-1204, or at 646-867-7997.
More Blog Posts:
Unpaid Intern Sues Celebrity Twins Under State Wage and Hour Laws, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, September 25, 2015
More than $7 Million in Back Pay Owed to New Jersey Workers from Federal Wage and Hour Law Enforcement Remains Unclaimed, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, September 11, 2015
New Laws Require Employers in Some New Jersey Cities to Provide Paid Sick Leave to Employees, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, August 6, 2015