In a move similar to the Philadelphia Sick Leave ordinance I wrote about a couple of years ago, NJ legislature has recently passed a paid sick time law that is expected to be signed by Governor Murphy soon. The new legislation will take effect 6 months from the date he signs it and will require employers to provide sick time at a rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked, up to 40 hours per year. Employees be able to carry over up to 40 hours per year and use up to 40 hours (5 days) of paid time off for the following purposes:
Diagnosis, care, treatment, or recovery for an employee’s own health conditions, including preventive care
Diagnosis, care, treatment, or recovery for a family member’s health conditions, including preventive care
Circumstances resulting from the employee’s or family member’s status as a victim of domestic or sexual violence, including related counseling and court proceedings
Time the employee is unable to work because of the closure of an employee’s workplace or of a child’s school or place of care because of a public official’s order relating to a public health emergency, or because of a public health authority’s determination that the employee or the employee’s family member’s presence would jeopardize the health of others
Time to attend a school-related event as requested or required by school staff, or to attend a meeting related to the care of a child’s health condition or disability
Essentially, this new law means allowing employees to use up to 5 days of their sick time allotment for purposes beyond their own personal illness (e.g., they must be allowed to use up to 5 of their sick days for the purposes listed above). While there are quite a few interesting reasons that employers are now required to provide for paid sick leave, the good news is that this law pre-empts all of the various municipal sick time ordinances that have popped up across NJ over the recent years, so we only have to keep up with one sick time law in NJ rather than 13 separate laws.
When the need for sick time is “foreseeable,” employers would be permitted to require employees to provide up to seven days’ advance notice of the intended use and the expected duration. Employees would be required to make a “reasonable effort” to schedule the time off so it does not “unduly disrupt” the employer’s operations. Employers may also be pleased to hear that the law would allow employers to prohibit employees from using foreseeable sick time “on certain dates” and to require specified documentation if sick time that is not foreseeable is used during those dates. For example, let's say that you have an annual inspection scheduled for July 6th - 10th, you can make that a "black-out period" in which employees are not allowed to schedule or request any "foreseeable" time off. If an employee calls out sick on July 6th, you are allowed to require documentation for the need to use sick time.
For time that is not foreseeable, employers would be permitted to require notice “as soon as practicable,” if the employer has provided notice to the employee of this requirement. For sick time lasting three or more consecutive days, employers would be permitted to require “reasonable documentation” showing that the time was taken for a permissible purpose, and the law sets forth what reasonable documentation is for the different types of sick time.
Employers would be required to provide employees and new hires with notice of their rights under the law through a form to be issued by the commissioner. The notice would also have to be posted at each of the employer’s workplaces.
Some other factors of the new legislation to consider:
Employers would be prohibited from requiring an employee to work additional hours or shifts because the employee missed work using sick time, but employees could voluntarily choose to make up missed time
An employer may not require employees to find a replacement for hours missed when using paid sick time
Employees who are terminated would be entitled to have any forfeited sick time if they are rehired within six months of their termination
Employers would be required to treat as confidential certain employee information submitted to support the use of sick time
The law has special provisions for unionized workforces, and employers with those workforces should consult with counsel
What should employers do now to prepare?
While the law won’t take effect until this Fall at the soonest, now is the time for employers to start preparing for it. There are a number of things that employers should be doing in advance of the legislation going into effect.
Ensure that time and payroll records are sufficiently detailed to reflect the amount of hours worked and sick time used by covered employees
Train managers and human resources employees on the law and make sure that they are aware of its anti-retaliation provisions
Consider the possibility of frontloading sick time, but employers should consult counsel before doing so
Review sick time policies to ensure that employees know they may be disciplined if they misuse paid sick time
Review current sick time policies to ensure that they comply with the law’s requirements. Employers with paid time off policies more generous than the requirements of the law (through PTO, vacation, unlimited sick time, or another bona fide policy) may need to make policy changes to ensure that at least 40 hours of that time can be used in a manner consistent with the new law
If you or your team need assistance rewriting policies or procedures, or with advice and guidance as you implement new policies, procedures and processes due to this new law, please reach out to Salient Organizational Solutions at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling their President, Rachel Harriet at (609) 851-0370.