New Jersey Governor Signs Paid Sick Leave Law

New Jersey Governor Signs Paid Sick Leave Law

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed a bill into law on Wednesday that will require employers throughout the state to allow nearly all employees to accrue paid sick leave, Matt Arco and Brent Johnson report at NJ.com:

The law—which takes effect in six months—will require employers in the state to offer workers one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours they’ve worked. Workers can use up to 40 hours of sick leave a year. Many companies in the state do offer paid sick leave. But about 1.2 million workers — about one-third of New Jersey’s workforce — still don’t have access. …

Under the law (A1827), time off may be used because the employee or a family member are ill, to attend a school conference or meeting, or to recover from domestic violence. The law allows employers to black out certain dates that can’t be taken off and exempts per-diem hospital employees and construction workers under contract.

As reported when the bill first passed the state Assembly in March, employees begin to accrue this time as soon as they start a new job but are not eligible to use it until the 120th calendar day of their employment. Employers with all-purpose paid time off policies are considered compliant with the law as long as their employees’ PTO accrues at a rate equal to or greater than that mandated by the law.

The Assembly passed A1827 around the same time the state Senate passed the Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act, named after a recently retired Republican state senator who experienced age and gender discrimination during her career in broadcast journalism, unanimously. That law will lower the burden of proof for pay discrimination claims and allow victims of discrimination to recoup up to six years’ worth of back pay. It will also make it illegal for employers to prevent employees from discussing their pay with others, but not to ask candidates about their salary histories as part of the process of negotiating pay. Murphy signed the Equal Pay Act into law on April 24, and it will become effective July 1.

With its new paid sick leave law, New Jersey joins a growing number of states making this benefit mandatory for most employees: Ten states, plus Washington, DC, now have these laws, as do some 30 cities (Local mandates in New Jersey cities will be superseded by the new state law). Sick leave mandates face some political pushback from Republicans, however: this had been a priority for New Jersey’s Democratic-majority legislature for years but had been blocked by former Republican governor Chris Christie. State lawmakers in Texas are looking to preempt a paid sick leave law passed earlier this year by the City Council in the state capital of Austin.

Some business groups also balk at paid sick leave requirements, which they say increase the costs and complexity of their operations. A group of airlines, for example, is suing the state of Washington as well as Massachusetts over their sick leave mandates, arguing that due to the mobile nature of the aviation workforce, it is impossible for these companies to comply with state and local paid sick leave laws.

For most companies, however, complying with paid sick leave laws may do more good than harm, as paid sick leave reduces presenteeism, improves productivity, and prevents costly outbreaks of disease in the workplace. Research into the effects of New York City’s paid sick leave law, which went into effect in 2013, found that it did not have a meaningful impact on business costs.