Morristown is the 13th city in New Jersey to Enact a Forced Sick Leave on Private Enterprise.
On January 11, 2017, the Paid Sick Leave Ordinance of Morristown became effective. The new law requires paid sick leave for all private employers, but conveniently leaves out the City of Morristown from the obligation of providing paid sick leave to all of its employees.
Furthermore, the ordinance reaches past city limits and applies to all companies who have employees that work 80 hours or more each year in Morristown. Although Morristown’s FAQ page has attempted to alleviate much of the ambiguity found in the ordinance, like most of the other New Jersey cities, there are many important questions left unanswered.
Only New Brunswick, NJ successfully answered many of these questions.
Morristown fails to provide businesses with clear requirements around record keeping, record retention, employee sick leave abuse, calculating full time equivalent and other major questions for business owners.
The ordinance mirrors the ordinances passed by earlier cities, which leaves many gaping holes and unanswered questions for business owners. The other cities with paid sick leave ordinances include East Orange, Newark, Jersey City, Montclair, Passaic, Paterson, Irvington, Trenton, Bloomfield, Plainfield and Elizabeth.
The Ordinance is officially called “An Ordinance of the Town of Morristown in the County of Morris, New Jersey, to Implement Sick Leave” It is also commonly called Paid Sick Leave Ordinance.
The purpose of this article is to provide business owners an overview of the Sick Leave Ordinance and how to best be compliant with the new law.
Overview of Paid Sick Leave
Employees of private employers are now able to earn paid sick leave hours. Employees can earn between 24 and 40 hours of paid sick leave each year. Employees earn sick leave at the rate of 1 hour for every 30 hours worked. The maximum number of sick leave hours available depends on the employee’s occupation and the size of their employer.
Employees who work 80 hours a year or more are covered.
Although the ordinance itself fails to address occasional work employee, the FAQ page answers the question. Occasional-basis employees are employees whose private employers reside outside the city, but the employee works occasionally within City limits.
The FAQ states that all employees working in Morristown are covered, even if the employer is outside of city limits. These external businesses may be required to provide paid sick leave for employees who work inside the city for 80 hours a year or more.
Accrual of Safe and Sick Time
Large businesses, who have 10 or more employees, are required to provide up to 40 hours of paid sick leave in a year.
Small employers with less than 10 employees are required to provide up to 24 hours of paid sick leave.
The only exception for small employers is for employees who are child-care, home health care, or food service employees. For these employees, sick leave can accrue up to 40 hours a year.
|Employer Size||Maximum hour of sick leave available each year||Amount of sick leave available to be rolled over|
|10+ employees||40 hours of paid sick leave a year||40 hours of paid leave a year|
|<10 employees||40 hours of paid sick leave a year||24 hours of paid leave a year|
|*Industry exception, regardless of business size||Any Child-care, home health care, or food service worker can earn 1 hour for every 30 hours worked up to 40 hours a year.||Any Child-care, home health care, or food service worker can earn 1 hour for every 30 hours worked up to 40 hours a year.|
Calculating the Business Employee Size
Company size is determined by the “average number of employees who worked for compensation during the preceding year.”
There are no provisions in the ordinances to differentiate full time versus part time employees. This means that all employees are counted with equal weight, even though most laws recognize the difference between hiring 10 part time employees and hiring 10 full time employees.
In Morristown, there is no distinction between fulltime and part time employees. In other words, 10 employees who work 15 hours a week each would be counted as 10 employees as a large business employee for 40 hours of leave. This is despite the fact that they would be equivalent to between 4 full-time employees.
Paid Sick Leave Accrual
In the exact language of 10 other cities in New Jersey, Morristown also allows business discretion in determining what 12 month period companies use for the benefit year. It can be any consecutive 12 months that the business defines. Managers should inform employees if the accrual year is different than the standard calendar year of January through December.
Exempt employees, those who are exempt from overtime according to the definitions of the Fair Labor Standards Act, are assumed to work a 40 hour week.
Unless an exempt employee regularly works less hours, they will accrue sick leave based on the 40 hour week. If an exempt employee’s regularly works less than 40 hours a week, in which case that employee will accrue sick leave on their normally worked hours.
Employees can roll up to 40 hours of accrued sick leave to the following year. However, even if 40 hours are rolled over, the employee is still limited to using more than 40 hours of sick leave each year.
The ability to roll sick leave provides a way for sick leave to be taken at the beginning of the year before more time has accrued. Companies can also choose to avoid rolling sick leave if they payout unused, accrued sick leave at the end of the year.
This is identical to the previous sick leave laws passed in New Jersey.
Covered Employees under the Paid Sick Leave Ordinance
The Morristown Paid Sick Leave Ordinance applies to all privately employed employees. Employees must work inside city limits for at least 80 hours a year.
This means that outside companies in other cities, states or even outside the USA, must be aware of this ordinance if employees travel to Morristown to work for a limited period.
It is vital that employers who have employees who operate on an occasional-basis in the township maintain accurate records of time spent inside the city.
Exceptions to Earned Sick & Safe Time
Fortunately for town officials, Morristown’s ordinance excludes the city from the sick leave requirements. Additionally, all government employees, including Federal, State and Local governments.
Education employees are exempt and are defined as an employee of any school district or the board of education.
Union construction workers are also exempt from the requirements of the law provided there is a collective bargaining agreement and the worker has graduated from or is participating in a registered apprenticeship program.
Allowable Uses for Earned Sick and Safe Time Leave
Allowable sick leave uses are identical to 11 of the other cities’ allowable uses for paid sick leave time to be taken.
That means that unlike New Brunswick, Morristown victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking are not included in the right to take sick leave to seek safety or find remedies.
Sadly, although the Plainfield ordinance dedicated 13 paragraphs to the need for a law that provided public safety for illness, it failed to mention any concern for the safety of violence victims.
Employees can take time off for themselves for any of the reasons, or can take time off to assist a family member with any of the allowable reasons for sick leave.
Employees can take sick leave for a mental or physical illness, injury or health condition or to obtain a medical diagnosis, care, preventative care, or treatment for any physical or mental illness injury or health condition of themselves or their family member.
Additionally, if the employee’s place of business is closed due by order of a public health official due to a public health emergency, sick leave can be used. If an employee has a need to care for a child or family member whose school or place of care is closed by a public health official, then the employee can also take sick leave.
In the event that a public health employee determines that the presence of the employee, child, or family member would jeopardize the health of others because of exposure to a communicable disease, then the employee can take time off to care for them. This is applicable, even if the family member or employee has not actually contracted the disease.
- Mental or physical illness: to care for, diagnos, obtain treatment, or preventative care.
- If the business, place of care, or school has been closed due to a public health emergency
- If the employee or family member has had exposure to a communicable disease, even if the employee or family member hasn’t contracted the disease.
Family Member Definitions
Morristown recognizes many types of family relationships including, parental, child, spouse, domestic partner, sibling, grandparent or grandchild. Most types of legal relationships such as adoption, foster care, and biological are recognized.
- Child: biological, adopted, step, foster, child of a domestic partner or civil union partner, or a child that the employee stands in loco parentis relationship to
- Parent: biological, adopted, step or foster parent or a legal guardian of the employee or the employee’s spouse, domestic partner, or civil union partner. Or a person who stood in loco parentis when the employee was a child.
- Spouse, domestic partner or civil union partner
- Grandparents: including spouses and partners of grandparents.
Sick Leave Bank and Minimum Usage
Employees can start using sick leave 90 calendar days after commencing work. Earned sick leave starts accruing on the first date of employment.
Sick leave can be taken in hourly increments or in the smallest time increment that other absences are accounted for on the payroll system.
When employees leave employment, but return to work within a 6 month period, the employer must reinstate previously accrued and unused sick leave hours to the employees.
Employers don’t have to pay out sick leave time when employees leave employment. When sick leave is reinstated, the employee doesn’t have to wait through the 90 day probationary period again. They are immediately eligible to start using the reinstated sick leave hours.
Employers are allowed to lend sick leave hours to employees before accrual of hours and are under no liability for choosing to do so. Employers who deny a request to loan sick leave are also under no liability. Sick leave hours transfer to a new owner or successor employer. Accrued hours also transfer with employees who transfer within the same company.
Coordinating with Existing Time Off Policies
Companies who provide sick leave law that are more generous than the Morristown Paid Sick Leave Law don’t have to provide additional paid time off.
The two requirements of this provision is that the employee be allowed to use sick leave for all the allowable reasons included in the ordinance and that employees be able to earn at the same rate or better sick leave time up to the maximum provided by law.
HR managers and Payroll Professionals with existing leave policies should examine their guidelines to make sure that all allowable reasons for leave in the sick leave law are also allowed in the company’s policy. Employers should also make sure that their policies include the notification required by law.
Reasonable Documentation and Notification of Sick Leave Usage
Employees are required to notify employers as soon as possible for sick leave usage. Employers can require up to 7 days of notice for sick leave usage, except in an emergency. In an emergency, employees should notify employers as soon as possible.
After an employee has used 3 or more consecutive days of sick leave, then the manager can require documentation by a health care provider that sick leave was necessary. The statement cannot disclose the nature of the sick leave. Employers can also require employees to confirm in writing that sick leave was used for allowable reasons.
Employers are prohibited from any type of retaliation under the Paid Sick Leave Law. That includes any type of discipline, threat, discharge, suspension, demotion, reduction of hours, or any adverse action. Employees can exercise their rights of paid sick leave and cannot be prohibited from attempting to exercise their rights.
Employees can file complaints, work with the Agency in investigations, participate in any judicial action relating to the act and inform others of their rights under the act. Employers must notify employees of their rights against retaliation for using sick leave time.
Notification and Records
New employees must be notified of their rights under the law. Furthermore, as of January 2017, all existing employees should have also been notified of their rights for paid sick leave. Notification must be posted in a conspicuous place where the employee’s work.
The notices and posters must be in English and any other first languages spoken by more 10% or more of the employees. The city provides English and Spanish notices. The notice includes the right to sick leave, accrual rate, amount of sick time available for accrual, and the terms of its use. Additionally notification must include the rights of the employee against retaliation and the right to file a complaint.
Fines and Remedies provided by the Sick and Safe Time Ordinance
Businesses can be fined up to $2,000 per violation. Each day is considered a separate violation. This is a costly compliance issue for companies. It is more vital than ever that businesses have a means of staying compliant with sick leave laws.
Time and Attendance and Record Retention
Like many other New Jersey Cities, Morristown Municipal Court also assumes employer guilt if adequate records are not maintained to prove the employer complied with sick leave requirements. Unfortunately, unlike New Brunswick, Plainfield failed to provide clear and adequate requirements concerning those records. There is no specific retention period listed in the ordinance, nor specific details about the nature of the records to be kept.
This makes it crucial for business owners and managers to maintain consistent and detailed records. Manual timekeeping is more easily altered and lost than automated time and attendance records, including employee information, hours worked, sick leave accrual and usage. Businesses should also have written documentation of sick leave requests as well as a written employee handbook.
Businesses should consider maintaining records that include employee time period worked, weekly hours worked, sick leave requests, paid sick leave hours and amount paid for sick leave. Sick leave rolled over should be also be included in the records. . Additionally, employers should consider maintaining these records a minimum of 3 to 5 years as this is the typical timeline required by other, clearer, sick leave laws across the country.
Let SwipeClock Help
Businesses who have employees in more than just Jersey City may have to comply with multiple conflicting City ordinances defining Sick leave accrual and usage laws. Additionally, these businesses have to also comply with Federal Overtime Laws, the Family Leave Medical Act and any other national or local laws that are enacted.
SwipeClock provides a comprehensive array of workforce management and time tracking tools that can help businesses to more easily stay in compliance with local and national laws. Records are effortlessly kept for years and accrual is automatically tracked and reported to employees according to the state and city laws. Additionally, with geo-timekeeping clocks, businesses can effortlessly track time worked in specific cities to ensure compliance.
Written by Annemaria Duran. Last updated on March 13, 2017