On May 2, 2018, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed into law the Paid Sick Leave Act requiring all public and private employers in the State of New Jersey, regardless of their size, to offer paid sick leave. The law is scheduled to go into effect on October 29, 2018.
Under the Paid Sick Leave Act, an employee shall be permitted to paid sick leave as follows:
(a) Diagnosis, care, treatment, recovery and/or preventive care for the employee’s own mental or physical illness or injury or the employee’s family member’s mental or physical illness or injury;
(b) Absence due to a public health emergency declared by a public official that causes the closure of the employee’s workplace or the school or childcare facility of the employee’s child or requires the employee or an employee’s family member to seek care;
(c) A necessary absence for medical, legal or other victim services because of domestic or sexual violence perpetrated on the employee or the employee’s family member; or
(d) To attend a school-conferences, meetings, or any event requested or required by a child’s school administrator, teacher, or other professional staff member responsible for the child’s education, or to attend a meeting regarding a child’s health or disability.
The Paid Sick Leave Act will allow employees to accrue one 1 hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked up to a maximum of forty 40 hours of paid sick leave per benefit year. Alternatively, employers are permitted to offer 40 hours of paid sick time or use a paid-time-off (“PTO”) policy as long as such a PTO policy provides equal or greater benefits to the employee. Employers are also allowed to designate the “benefit year” as any 12-month period but may not modify it without notifying the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development (NJDOL). To prevent a windfall to employees and financial hardship to employers, there is no provision in the law requiring employers to payout accrued unused sick leave upon termination of an employee absent a company policy to the contrary.
The law requires employers to maintain records which document the hours worked and earned sick leave used by employees for five years. Such records must be made available for inspection by the NJDOL. If an employee claims an employer violated the Act, and that the employer has failed to maintain adequate records, then there is a presumption that the employer failed to provide paid sick leave.
Similar to other remedial state employment laws such as New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination and the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act, employers are expressly prohibited from retaliating or discriminating against employees who file complaints with the commission or a court alleging the employer’s violation of the law. “Retaliation” is broadly defined under the statute to not only include actions like demotion, suspension, or refusal to promote, but also other acts, such as threatening to report the immigration status of an employee or family member of the employee. Adding further teeth to the retaliation provision of the Paid Sick Leave Act, there will be a a rebuttable presumption of unlawful retaliatory action whenever an employer takes an adverse action against an employee, such as a demotion, suspension, or termination within 90 days of when that employee opposes any violation of the law, files a complaint alleging a violation of the law, informs any person about the employer’s alleged violation of the law, or cooperates in an investigation into an alleged violation of the law.
Perhaps the most significant component of the legislation is that it provides employees with a private right of action for violations of the Paid Sick Leave Act including, among other remedies, liquidated damages in an amount equal to the actual damages sustained by an aggrieved employee (i.e., wages multiplied by two). Put differently, employees are permitted under the law to file a complaint in court and seek a wide array of remedies should they prove a a violation of the Paid Sick Leave law.
If you believe your employer has violated the Paid Sick Leave Act or does not intend to comply with the new law, please call us to discuss your legal options at (732) 536-6161 or fill out the contact form on this page for immediate help. The attorneys at Mashel Law, located in Marlboro, New Jersey, are dedicated to protecting the rights of employees.