Am I Entitled to Sick Pay in New Jersey?

entitled to sick payWhile right now, you may not be entitled to pay from your New Jersey employer if you’re too sick to go to work, that will soon be changing. This is due to the New Jersey Paid Sick Leave Act, passed by the State Senate on April 12, 2018 and signed into law by Governor Phil Murphy on May 2, 2018. This makes our state the 10th in the nation to legislate mandatory sick pay. The law goes into effect this October 29.

Current Law

Sick leave isn’t a reality for more than 1 million workers in New Jersey currently. Though, local laws vary across the state. These municipalities have already enacted sick pay laws:

  • Bloomfield
  • East Orange
  • Elizabeth
  • Irvington
  • Jersey City
  • Newark
  • New Brunswick
  • Montclair
  • Morristown
  • Passaic
  • Paterson
  • Plainfield
  • Trenton

Once the state level sick pay law goes into effect, these local ordinances will no longer apply. Employers are required to comply with the state legislation only.

How the New Paid Sick Leave Law Works

After 5 long years, law makers and proponents of the law, such as New Jersey Working Families, and those in opposition, like the New Jersey Business Association, finally managed to hash out various rules and stipulations that will govern the new law.

Eligibility

This law applies to employers of all sizes, with no minimum employee number requirement. Temp agencies must also provide this earned sick leave to their workers, and it’s based upon their total hours worked via the agencies.

Some employees are excluded, including:

  • Union construction workers
  • Per diem healthcare workers
  • Public workers with current sick leave benefits

Accrued Sick Time

You can earn up to 40 hours of paid sick leave per year at a rate of one hour of leave for every 30 hours you work. One benefit year is equal to 12 consecutive months. Employers must identify the benefit year time frame and cannot change it without prior notification to the N.J. Dept. of Labor and Workforce Development. Note that you don’t begin accruing your paid sick time until the day the law goes into effect. After the law is in effect, for employees starting a new job, paid sick leave begins accruing on the first day of work.

If you don’t use all your accrued sick time during the applicable benefit year, carry-over is allowed. However, your employer is not required to allow you to take more than 40 hours of paid sick leave during a benefit year.

Eligible Use

Once you have accrued sick time, you can use it for covered illnesses and situations as follows:

  • Physical and/or mental illness or injury of the employee
  • Physical and/or mental illness or injury of an eligible family member for which you are providing care. Eligible family members include:
    • Spouses
    • Domestic partners
    • Civil union partners
    • Children
    • Grandchildren
    • Siblings
    • Parents
    • Grandparents
    • Close blood relations or the equivalent
  • Domestic violence or sexual violence situations
  • Public health emergencies resulting in the closure of the employee’s workplace, childcare facility or school
  • School-related functions, events or meetings for the employee’s child/ren

If you miss more than two days of work, your employer may request reasonable documentation that supports the reason you took sick time.

Prior Notice Requirements

In some cases, you may be required to provide prior notice to your employer of your need for sick time. This applies in situations where the reason for your absence is “foreseeable”, such as a pre-arranged meeting at your child’s school or a pre-set doctor’s appointment. In these situations, your employer may deny the time off for some dates. If you take the time off anyway, as “unforeseeable” sick time, your employer can demand documentation from you for the absence. This is a clear effort to prevent abuse of sick leave benefits.

Separation from Your Job

Your employer isn’t required to pay out your unused sick time when you leave your job unless there is a written policy, contract or employment agreement requiring them to do so. If you leave your job, but return within six months, your employer must reinstate any sick leave you had earned but not used when you left.

Enforcement

The passage of this law is a heartening step forward in New Jersey for workers’ rights. Many advocates fought long and hard to win the right to sick leave for New Jersey employees. To ensure that employers comply with the new law, legislators included a legal means of enforcement. This allows workers to sue their employers for non-compliance. It also offers protection against discriminatory and/or retaliatory actions that may result from your request for or use of sick leave under the law.

Employers are required to fulfill certain notice and record-keeping requirements, as well. For example, they must post a notification describing your rights under this law. Employers must also keep related work hours and sick time records for five years and allow access to the Dept. of Labor and Workforce Development.

If you have questions about the new law or issues with sick leave under current local paid sick time laws, contact Castronovo & McKinney to schedule a consultation. Our knowledgeable New Jersey Employment Attorneys are prepared to advocate for you and fight for the rights you deserve.