The New Jersey Paid Sick Leave Act became effective in late October 2018. Its protections cover the vast majority of New Jersey workers, even those working for smaller employers. The gist of the law is that all protected workers will accumulate at least one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours of work. In some cases, there is a probationary period for new employees before they can build up sick leave. Employers are required to allow employees to accrue up to 40 hours of leave per year. This allows workers to take time to recover from illnesses or care for sick loved ones and still get paid for a period of time.
The law is relatively new, but as with most employee protections, there are bound to be employers who look to shirk their responsibilities. This will force affected workers to assert their rights through the justice system.
Use, Notice and Documentation
The Act is intended to provide workers with access to sick leave. It does not grant workers the right to be paid for other types of leave. Employees can use the leave for the diagnosis, care, treatment for, or recovery from mental or physical illness. It also covers workers who need to provide aid or care for a covered family member.
Employers can require up to seven days of advance notice for foreseeable leave. They can also forbid the use of foreseeable leave on certain dates (think Christmas Eve or school holidays). In situations where the leave is not foreseeable, employers can require workers to provide “reasonable” documentation, at their own expense for leave used on these dates.
Finally, employers can require workers to give notice of their intention to use the leave as soon as they can practically do so. The employer must first notify the employee of this requirement.
The bill faced opposition from a number of industries in its earlier forms. Many employers do not feel that they should have to provide sick leave. They want to be able to fire workers who don’t show up for work, even when the reason is health-related. Therefore, situations where employers retaliate against workers for asserting their right to sick leave are to be expected. If you are denied leave improperly or punished for using it, you should speak to an experienced employment law attorney as soon as possible.