Paid sick leave has traditionally been a benefit employers could voluntarily select to provide, and often only for certain employees. However, employers should be aware that an increasing number of states and cities have begun mandating that employers provide paid sick leave to some extent. Further, in the recent State of the Union address, the Obama Administration made it clear that it is taking steps to provide nation-wide access to paid sick leave by calling on Congress, the States, and cities to pass more of such legislation.
In 2014, the New Jersey State Assembly introduced and amended a bill entitling all employees, including part-time employees, to receive paid sick leave. Under the bill, businesses with 10 or more employees would be required to let workers earn up to 72 hours of paid time off that they could use either when they are sick or to take care of sick relatives. Businesses with less than 10 employees would be required to allow 40 hours of sick leave. Under the bill, for every 30 hours worked, the employee would accrue one hour of earned sick leave, though the amount accrued does not have to carry forward from one year to the next. While the bill is considered a pro-worker and pro-health policy measure, critics have noted that the bill does not yet address issues employers might have with seasonal employees, along with the increased cost to employers. However, others argue business owners have an incentive to keep employees happy and healthy.
This state bill was introduced in light of a trend among some New Jersey communities that have already adopted similar sick paid leave rules locally. So far, Jersey City, Newark, Passaic, East Orange, Paterson, Irvington, Trenton, and Montclair have all approved their own paid sick leave laws in 2014. Many of these recent municipal ordinances became effective on January 1, 2015. Notably, the state bill would not preempt some of these more generous municipal laws.