A new sick leave law just went into effect across New Jersey. The Paid Sick Leave Act went into effect on October 29, 2018. However, some final rules are not set to be decided until possibly as late as early 2019.
The new state-wide law creates double compliance for many employers in New Jersey. Already 13 cities throughout the Garden state have passed local sick leave laws. Those cities include East Orange, Newark, Jersey City, Montclair, Passaic, Paterson, Irvington, Trenton, Bloomfield, Elizabeth, New Brunswick, Plainfield, and Morristown.
Employees now earn 1 hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked. Up to 40 hours a year can be earned. Employers can set a “year” to any 12 month period but must be consistent about what the year is.
Covered Employees under Earned Sick Leave
The law covers all employees. Under New Jersey’s law, there are no minimum hours to be worked before an employee qualifies for sick leave. Basically, any individual who is compensated for work performed is an employee.
All private, non-profit, and educational employers are required to provide sick leave. The law specifically covers firms, individuals, businesses, corporations, LLCs, educational institutions, and non-profits.
- No required hours before an employee qualifies
- Does not have to work for a “company.” Employees can work for an individual
Exclusions (exemptions) to Earned Sick & Safe Time
Union construction workers are exempt from the law. In addition, the law also exempts per diem health care employees and public employees who are provided with sick leave.
Allowable Uses for Earned Sick and Safe Time Leave
- Union Construction workers are exempt
- Per Diem Nurses
- Government employees covered by other sick leave laws
Family Member Definitions
Employees can take sick leave for themselves or for a family member. The law broadly defines family as:
- Child: biological, adopted, foster, step, legal ward.
- Employee’s child, or their domestic partner or civil union partner’s child
- Parent: biological, adoptive, foster, step, or legal guardian.
- Includes employee or their partner’s parent
- Sibling: biological, foster, or adopted
- Spouse, Domestic Partner, or Civil Union Partner
- Any person whose close association with the employee is the equivalent to a family relationship
Sick and Safe Time Leave Allowable Uses
Sick and safe time provides time for employees to take time off for illnesses, injuries, to deal with domestic or sexual abuse, due to public health dangers, and for school meetings for their children.
- Physical or mental illness, injury or health condition
- Diagnosis, care, treatment, recovery from, and preventative care
- Safe time: allows individuals to deal with the effects of physical and sexual violence
- Physical and psychological injury and disability caused by violence
- Medical attention or services from a victims service organization
- Counseling services
- Legal services: obtaining a restraining order, preparing and participating in civil or criminal legal procedures
- School or work closure by a public heath official due to a public health emergency or an epidemic
- If the individual’s presence in the community would jeopardize a risk to others health
- Attend a child’s school meeting, conference, function, or other event related to the care and health of the child.
- Used for the employee’s own needs or for a family member’s need
Sick Leave Bank and Minimum Usage
Employers can set any required minimum use of sick leave as long as it is not more than the scheduled shift. This is different than many of New Jersey’s local laws, which allow employers to set sick leave use at a maximum of 1 hour. Under the state law, if an employee was scheduled for an 8 hour shift and needs to use sick leave, the employer can require them to use sick leave for the entire shift.
- Sick leave minimum use is limited to the full hours of the employee’s scheduled shift
When employees transfer to another division with the same employer, sick leave transfers with them. If the employee leaves employment with the employer for any reason, their earned, but unused sick leave remains in a sick leave bank for 6 months. If they reinstate employment with the same employer (or a successor employer) then their unused sick leave must be reinstated to them.
- Employer can set the minimum sick leave use at the length of the employees scheduled shift
- Sick leave bank for 6 months
Employers can limit sick leave use to 40 hours in a year. HOwever, there is no provision that allows employers to limit an employee’s sick leave bank
- Sick leave use can be limited to 40 hours a year
- Sick leave accrual is not limited
The regulations does not give any guidance regarding how employers can prorate employee’s sick leave when they start in the middle of a benefit year. The law does allows employers to advance sick leave to employees at the beginning of the year, but requires that advanced sick leave be available for use immediately.
How the Law Covers Exempt Employees
New Jersey state law does not exclude exempt employees from the coverage of sick leave (unlike other state laws), Employes can credit exemple employees with sick leave based on two methods.
- They can assume the exempt employee works 40 hours a week and credit sick leave accordingly
- They can track the exempt employees time worked and credit sick leave based on actual hours worked.
Accrual of Sick and Safe Time Probationary timeline
Employees begin accruing sick leave on the first date of work. However, employers can restrict employees from using the accrued sick leave until 120 days after employment begins.
Coordinating with Paid Time Off Policies
Employers who offers personal days, sick leave, paid time off (PTO), vacation days and other days off comply with the new law. However, employees must be able to use those days off in accordance with the law. Plus, accrual must be at least as generous as the law requires.
Employers should check their employee policies to make sure they are compliant.
One interesting allowance in the law lets employees work extra shifts instead of using sick leave.
Employee Notification of Sick Leave Usage
New Jersey employers can require up to a 7 day notice of foreseeable sick leave use. Employers can also require that employees notify employers of sick leave use as soon as possible when leave was unforeseeable. If employers want sick leave notice, then they must notify employees of that policy.
- Employers can require a 7 day notice for foreseeable sick leave use
- It must be in an employer’s policy and employees must be notified of the policy
The law allows employers to have blackout dates in which employees cannot use foreseeable sick leave use. Those dates can include a product launch date or a holiday where customer traffic is foreseeably higher. Employers can only have blackout dates for “verifiable high-volume periods or special events, during which permitting the use of foreseeable earned sick leave would unduly disrupt the operations of the employer.”
- Blackout dates are allowed for limitations on foreseeable sick leave
Employer Notification and Record Keeping Requirements
Employers are required to keep employment records for at least 5 years. The records must be kept at the place of employment or at a central office in N.J. where the DOLL can access them. The records must maintain the following information:
- Employee hours worked
- Sick leave earned, used, paid, and advanced
- Sick leave rolled over or paid out
- Exempt employee recordkeeping is not required if the employer advanced the full complement of sick leave to the employee and assumes a 40 hour work week for the employee
Employers are allowed to notify employees of the sick leave law through an internet or intranet site that is available to all the employees. In addition, employers must notify employees through email notification.
The law assumes that employers are retaliating against an employee if action is taken within 90 days of the employee using the sick leave in any way. Employees who inquire, use, file a complaint, cooperate with an investigation, or inform others of their rights under the act are protected.
Fines and Remedies provided by the Sick and Safe Time Ordinance
There are several repercussions of violating the sick leave law. If an employer willfully violates the law, they are considered guilty of a disorderly persons offense.
- Violation 1: A fine of $100 to $1,000 fine
- or a prison sentence of 10 to 90 days.
- Subsequent violations: Fines between $500 and $1,000
- Or a prison sentence is between 10 and 100 days
- Or both.
- Administrative penalties
- 1st penalty $250
- $250 – $500
- Further Fees:
- 1st violation: 10% of the amount of any payment
- 2nd violation: 18% of the amount of any payment
- Subsequent: 25% of the amount of any payment
Let SwipeClock Help
Businesses who have employees in St Paul or Minneapolis, and a growing list of other cities 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 Medical Leave 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.
SwipeClock is a leading provider of simple and affordable integrated workforce management services that provide intuitive employee access to integrated automated time and attendance, scheduling, leave management, HR dashboards, and other HR resources.
The company’s cloud products (WorkforceHUB, TimeWorksPlus, TimeSimplicity) and hardware clocks (TimeWorksTouch and TimeWorksTUFF and others) enable employers to manage their most important and expensive asset—employees—by transforming labor from a cost of doing business to a competitive advantage.
SwipeClock’s workforce management solutions are sold through over 900 partners that empower more than 30,000 businesses to lower labor costs, comply with regulatory mandates, and maximize profits.
Written by Annemaria Duran. Last updated on November 16, 2018