New Jersey Sick Leave Laws in a Time of Public Health Alerts

American society often takes an odd view of sick leave. A common way for someone to demonstrate their dedication to their job is to say that they have “never taken a sick day.” The implication behind this claim is not necessarily that they never got sick, but rather that they continued showing up to work even if they were sick. Everyone gets sick at some point, though, whether it is a minor cold, a major flu, or something even worse. Some people might never take sick leave because they feel like they should not, while other people might not have the option of missing work. From an employee’s point of view, New Jersey employment laws are more generous than those of many states in this regard.

Showing up to work regardless of illness might seem like an admirable display of determination, but it could put one’s co-workers at risk of getting sick. This is especially true in early 2020, when COVID-19, also commonly known as the coronavirus, has led public health officials to advise people displaying certain symptoms to stay home or seek immediate medical attention. Unfortunately, not everyone can do this.

Many workers in the U.S. have little to no available sick leave, paid or unpaid. Even if they have the means to see a doctor, they might believe that they have no choice but to go to work. Workers in New Jersey need to know their rights under state and federal sick and medical leave laws, so that they can better understand their options if they need to isolate themselves.

New Jersey Sick Leave Laws

State law addresses two questions to varying extents:
1. Will I get paid if I miss work because I am sick?
2. Can my boss fire me if I miss work because I am sick?

New Jersey is one of a handful of states with a law providing paid sick leave (PSL). For every thirty hours a person works, they are entitled to one hour of PSL, up to a maximum of forty PSL hours in a year. They can start using accrued PSL once they have been with their employer for six months. If they do not use all of their accrued hours by the end of the year, the hours roll over to the following year. The rate of pay during leave must be the same as a worker’s regular hourly rate.

The law prohibits employers from retaliating against an employee who uses their accrued PSL. This means that your employer cannot fire you, demote you, or take other adverse actions against you for taking authorized leave.

Federal Medical Leave Laws

At the federal level, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) lets qualifying employees take up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave for illness and other medical purposes. The law’s applicability is rather limited. It only covers employers with fifty or more employees. In order to be eligible for medical leave, an employee must have worked for the employer for at least twelve months, and must have worked at least 1,250 hours during that time period.

The FMLA also prohibits retaliation. It requires an employer to continue providing benefits like health insurance during leave, and to reinstate an employee when they return from leave.

The experienced and skilled employment lawyers at the Resnick Law Group can advise you of your rights and options in a dispute with an employer over medical leave in New Jersey or New York. To schedule a confidential consultation to discuss your case, please contact us today online, at 973-781-1204, or at 646-867-7997.

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