New Jersey Paid Sick Leave Act

New Jersey Paid Sick Leave Act- goes into effect October 28, 2018

If your employer does not already have a paid pick leave policy, or even if they do, you must be aware of this New Jersey law, which takes effect on October 28, 2018. The New Jersey Paid Sick Leave Act requires all employers, public and private, union or not, civil service or not, and regardless of size, to provide no less than 40 hours of paid sick leave per year to covered employees.

Here are some important questions and answers. Please understand, however, that, because the law has not yet gone into effect, and because we expect further Court decisions and regulation, some of this information will certainly be evolving as we go forward.

How much time do I have to file a claim if my rights have been violated?

There is a two-year statute of limitations on claims under this law. That means that you must come see the law firm as soon as you feel that a violation has occurred. The longer you wait, the more that evidence may erode or be lost, and the closer you come to running out of time.

How long does it take to accumulate my paid sick leave time?

It appears that a minimum of 40 hours of leave per full year is the minimum standard set by the law and that one accumulates one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked. The employer also has the option of granting the entire 40 hours of leave at the start of each calendar year.

Are there any employees exempted from this new law?

The few exceptions that appear to be outlined in the law are employees of the construction industry employed under a collective bargaining agreement, "per diem" healthcare employees and public employees who already have sick leave benefits. All other employees, of all employers, are covered.

Can I "carry-over" accumulated sick leave time?

At this time, the law appears to allow an employee to do so. The law also allows an employer to allow the employee to "buy-out" their accumulated sick leave time at the end of the year in the form of pay and start fresh in the following 365-day period.

It is important to note that if an employee does "carry-over" their time, the "cap" of hours that an employer must allow an employee to "carry-over" appears to be 40 hours.

That means that if you have used 20 of your 40 hours in a given year, and you choose to "carry-over" time into the following year, you still cannot accumulate more than 40 hours in the following year.

What can I use my sick leave for?

At this time, the statute provides that sick leave can be used for:

(i) Diagnosis, care or treatment of, or recovery from, an employee's own mental or physical illness, including preventative medical care;

(ii) Aid or care for a covered family member during diagnosis, care or treatment of, or recovery from, the family member's mental or physical illness, including preventative medical care;

(iii) Circumstances related to an employee's or to the employee family member's status as a victim of domestic or sexual violence (including related medical care, counseling, relocation or accessing legal services);

(iv) Closure of an employee's workplace or of a school/childcare of an employee's child because of a public official's order relating to a public health emergency;

(v) Time to attend a meeting requested or required by school staff to discuss a child's health condition or disability.

Can I transfer my accumulated time if I move to a different branch of the same company or if my company is sold?

The law presently appears to allow an employee to "carry" their accumulated sick time from one branch division or location of a company to another, and also appears to require a new "owner" (including a new company that has taken over the existing company) to honor accumulated sick leave time for the employee.

What if I am laid off and shortly return back, can I keep my accumulated time?

It depends. The law appears to say that if you are laid off (as opposed to fired for cause or quitting) and you return within six months, you get to keep your prior accumulated time.

Must I give notice to my employer if I intend to utilize this leave?

It depends of whether or not the need for leave is "foreseeable" or not. If the leave is "foreseeable," the law appears to allow the employer to ask for advance notice (not to exceed seven days) and allows the employer to forbid the use of leave on certain dates. The law also allows an employer to request "reasonable" documentation if sick leave that is not foreseeable is used during those dates.

For emergent or unforeseeable absences, employers may require employees to give notice of the intention to use the leave as soon as it is reasonable and practicable provided that the employer has notified the employee of this requirement in advance.

When an employee is absent for three consecutive days or more, the employer may require documentation that confirms that the employee used sick leave for a covered purpose.

How must an employer give me notice of my rights under this new law?

Employers must provide notification of these rights within 30 days of the date that the statute goes into effect and must post a conspicuous notice in conspicuous place of your rights under this law. An employer must also retain proper records of the use of sick time protected under this law.

What if my employer retaliates against me, or punishes me, for using this law or for arguing my rights (or those of others) under this law?

There is an anti-retaliation provision in the act that includes the presumption that an employer has retaliated against you if it takes adverse action against you within 90 days of engaging in "protected activity" under the act.

"Protected activity" includes actions such as filing a complaint with the Department of Labor, cooperating with an investigation into the violation of this law, opposing any practices or policies that might be unlawful under the act or informing other persons of their rights under the act.

Who is a "covered" family member under this law?

It appears that a family member is defined as a child, grandchild, sibling, spouse, domestic partner, civil union partner, parent, or grandparent of an employee, or a spouse, domestic partner or civil union partner of a parent or grandparent of the employee, or a sibling of a spouse, domestic partner, or a civil union partner of the employee, or any other individual related by blood to the employee or whose close association with the employee is the equivalent or a family relationship.

If my rights are violated under this Act, what can I do?

If you feel that you have either been denied leave, had your leave interfered with or because you have been punished for exercising your rights under this law or assisting others in doing so, you should call Costello & Mains for a free consultation.

The law provides that we may obtain damages for any wages lost, "exemplary" damages in the event of a willful violation, and attorneys' fees from any wrong-acting defendant, if we are able to successfully prove your case.

All representation is contingent, which means that there is no fee unless we are successful in recovering for you. All consultations and initial meetings are free.