- Of Counsel
In May of this year, New Jersey joined the growing number of states to enact paid sick leave laws. The New Jersey Paid Sick Leave Act is currently in effect and below you will find certain information that is important for all New Jersey employers to understand.
Who Does it Affect?
The Act applies to New Jersey employers of all sizes, including businesses that are based elsewhere but have employees located in New Jersey. While several New Jersey municipalities already had paid sick leave ordinances, this new state law preempts them, meaning they no longer apply and employers throughout the state are now subject to one consistent set of requirements.
The Act does not apply to a few narrow categories of employees: (1) construction industry employees working under collective bargaining agreements; (2) per diem health care employees; or (3) public employees who are already provided with sick leave with full pay pursuant to any other state law, rule, or regulation.
Employers who already have paid time off and/or paid sick leave policies that comply with the Act’s minimum requirements need not create an additional sick leave policy. But, it is essential to review current paid time off policies as soon as possible to ensure that they do in fact meet the Act’s minimum requirements, and if not, update them as necessary. Contact us if you need assistance to create a paid sick leave policy for your employees, or to review and update your existing policies to ensure they meet all of the Act’s requirements.
What are the Act’s Requirements?
Accrual of Paid Sick Leave. Under the Act, employees will accrue, beginning October 29, 2018, one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours they work. They can use or accrue no more than 40 hours of paid sick leave per benefit year, and can carry forward no more than 40 hours of paid sick leave from one benefit year to the next. Employers can opt to forego the accrual process and allow employees to start each benefit year with the full 40 hours of sick leave.
Using Accrued Sick Leave. Employees are eligible to begin using their accrued paid sick leave 120 days after commencing employment. After that, they can use sick leave as soon as they accrue it. Employees using earned sick leave must be paid at the same rate of pay with the same benefits that they normally earn. Or, the employee can opt, with the employer’s agreement, to work additional hours or shifts to make up for hours or shifts missed while sick, rather than deduct from their accrued sick leave.
Beyond an employee’s own personal sickness, there are a variety of reasons an employee can use paid sick leave under the Act. For example, it can be used to take time off for: medical appointments, including preventive medical care; caring for sick or injured family members; circumstances involving domestic violence; workplace or school closures due to public health emergency; or school meetings or functions relating to an employee’s child.
Employers can require up to seven days’ advance notice when an employee’s need to use sick leave is foreseeable, but can only require employees to provide notice “as soon as practicable” when they unexpectedly need to use paid sick leave.
Employers can, under certain circumstances (and with advance notice to employees), prohibit the use of paid sick leave for foreseeable reasons on certain dates, for example, high-volume periods or special events, during which the use of foreseeable earned sick leave would unduly disrupt the employer’s operations.
Notice Requirements. Employers must “conspicuously post” the notification poster issued by the state Department of Labor & Workplace Development “in a place or places accessible to all employees in each of the employer’s workplaces.” You can download a copy of the notice in English and several other languages from the Department’s website at: https://www.nj.gov/labor/earnedsick/index.html. Employers must post and distribute a copy of this notice to each employee by November 29, 2018, and must subsequently provide copies to new employees upon hire, and any employee who requests one. Under the Department’s proposed rules for the Act, posting the notice on your company’s intranet/internal website, and distributing the notice to employees via e-mail, can satisfy the notice requirements.
Recordkeeping. In general, employers must maintain records of the hours worked by their employees, and earned sick leave used by employees, for a period of five years, and allow the state Department of Labor & Workforce Development to access and review those records on demand.
Anti-Discrimination and Anti-Retaliation. Employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees for using paid sick leave. For example, use of earned sick leave taken in compliance with the Act cannot be counted as an absence that may result in employee discipline, discharge, demotion, suspension, a loss or reduction of pay, or any other adverse action. It is also unlawful to retaliate against employees who allege their employers have violated the Act.
Consequences of Non-Compliance. Penalties for violating the Act can include fines and even jailtime.
For More Information
This alert is intended as a general overview of the Act to update the Firm’s clients; there are many more details contained in the Act and its proposed administrative rules that are not covered here. If you need further details, answers to specific questions, an analysis of your business’s compliance with the Act, or assistance in administering your paid sick leave program, please contact us.
Elizabeth Zuckerman has been named Of Counsel to the Princeton law firm, Mason, Griffin & Pierson, P.C, and will lead its Employment Law section. Ms. Zuckerman received a J.D. from the University of California at Davis School of Law where she served as Executive Editor for the Law Review. In 1997, Ms. Zuckerman co-founded the employment law firm of Zuckerman & Fisher, LLC, focusing her practice on employee rights. Ms. Zuckerman is admitted to practice law in New Jersey, the Third Circuit, and the U.S. Supreme Court. She will continue to practice in the areas of employment law, employee rights and appellate practice. Ms. Zuckerman serves on the Executive Committee of the New Jersey chapter of the National Employment Lawyers Association and is a member of the New Jersey State and American Bar Associations.
Mason, Griffin & Pierson is celebrating its sixty-fifth anniversary. Since its founding in 1955, the firm has evolved from a two-man general practice partnership to a mid-size professional corporation which continues a general practice but has developed specific areas of concentration. The firm has been an integral part of central New Jersey over the past sixty-five years. The firm's first municipal client, Princeton, remains a client today, along with other municipalities and governing bodies in Mercer, Somerset, Middlesex, Hunterdon, Camden and Gloucester counties. Two of the firm's attorneys have served as President of the Mercer County Bar Association and, in 2001, the firm received the Community Partner Award from Mercer County Bar Foundation. Four of the firm's attorneys have been honored with the Fred G. Stickel Award for Excellence in Municipal Law and Service to the Legal Profession.
Elizabeth Zuckerman will be an instructor for the Princeton Adult Education course, Know Your Rights as an Employee. The 3-session course starts on February 11 and will explore topics including sexual harassment, discrimination, medical marijuana in the workplace, whistle-blower claims, NJ’s newly enacted Wage Theft Act, Federal and State family leave acts, and other laws that protect employees. Ms. Zuckerman has been practicing employment law for thirty years in Princeton and serves on the Executive Committee of the New Jersey chapter of the National Employment Lawyers Association. For more information visit .princetonadultschool.org.
MG&P starts the new year with new municipal clients. Kevin Van Hise has been appointed as the attorney for the West Amwell Township Zoning Board of Adjustment and Edwin Schmierer was recently retained by the Borough of Elmwood to serve as Special Counsel.
Elizabeth Zuckerman will be arguing in the NJ Supreme Court on February 3rd, in the case of Wild v. Carriage Funeral Holdings, Inc. The case involves the issue of whether an employee who uses medical marijuana can be terminated for failing a drug test. Ms. Zuckerman will be arguing on behalf of Amicus NELA-NJ.
Mason, Griffin & Pierson is pleased to sponsor Montgomery Township Education Foundation. The Foundation's fundraiser takes place on the evening of March 14 at Cherry Valley Country Club in Skillman, New Jersey. The Foundation is an independent, non-profit organization set up to support strategic programs for the benefit of the Montgomery Township public school children. For more information go to mtefnj.com
The SECURE ACT changes the age for required minimum distributions (RMDs) for traditional IRAs from 70 ½ to 72. The new rules allow an individual of any age to make contributions to a traditional IRA, as long as the individual has earned income from wages or self-employment. The Act also affects beneficiaries of inherited IRAs. Other than a few exceptions, inherited IRAs (for deaths of IRA owners on or after 1/1/2020) are now required to be completely distributed within ten years following the death of the original account owner. In view of this significant change for inherited IRAs, estate plans put in place prior to the SECURE ACT may need to be revisited. Read more here.