The United States generally lags behind many other nations when it comes to various employment benefits, particularly paid leave. Allowing employees to take time off when they are sick, without having to worry about losing pay, seems like a sensible policy, but sick leave is entirely voluntary for most employers around the country. Workers without paid sick leave can put other workers’ health at risk by coming in when they should be recuperating at home. Only a handful of states and cities have laws requiring employers to provide paid sick leave, but the situation may be improving. At least eight New Jersey cities have enacted paid sick leave ordinances, and a pending New Jersey bill would require paid sick leave and would allow employees to file civil claims for violations.
Laws like the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), 29 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq., require covered employers to allow qualifying employees to take up to 12 weeks of leave during a 12-month period for personal or family medical reasons. Many employees do not qualify for FMLA coverage, however, such as when they have not accrued enough work history with their employer, or the employer is too small to be covered. The FMLA and many state laws also do not require the leave to be paid.
Currently, only four states require paid sick leave: California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Oregon. Eligibility requirements for coverage vary from state to state, with the minimum number of employees ranging from a high of 50 in Connecticut to coverage of nearly all employers in Oregon. Employees may bring private lawsuits against their employers for violations of these laws in Massachusetts and Oregon, and the California Attorney General can enforce the law on employees’ behalf.
Jersey City, New Jersey enacted one of this state’s first paid sick leave ordinances, which took effect in January 2014. Employees who work at least 80 hours in a calendar year for an employer in Jersey City accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours they work, up to an annual maximum of 40 hours. If an employer has nine or fewer employees, it is required to provide the same amount of leave as larger employers, but the leave is not required to be paid. New York City’s ordinance is generally similar to Jersey City’s ordinance.
Newark, Passaic, East Orange, Paterson, Irvington, Montclair, Trenton, and Bloomfield have also enacted paid sick leave ordinances. The key difference between their ordinances and the Jersey City ordinance is that employers with nine or fewer employees must provide a maximum of 24 hours of paid sick leave in a year, rather than 40 unpaid hours.
A bill pending in the New Jersey Legislature, A2354 / S785, would require employers in the state to provide one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to an annual maximum of 40 hours for employers with fewer than 10 employees, or 72 hours for employers with 10 or more employees. The bill prohibits retaliation against employees who make use of their sick leave, or who report violations of the law to the state. It provides the same enforcement mechanisms, including employee lawsuits, found in the New Jersey State Wage and Hour Law, N.J. Rev. Stat. §§ 34:11-56a24, 34:11-56a25.
The employment law attorneys at the Resnick Law Group represent employees, former employees, and job applicants in New Jersey and New York. Contact us online, at 973-781-1204, or at (646) 867-7997 today to schedule a confidential consultation with a skilled and experienced advocate for employee rights.
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