With the New Jersey Earned Sick Leave Law having recently taken effect, the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development (NJDOL) recently published a Notice of Employee Rights, which must be distributed to workers and posted in the workplace.
New Jersey’s Paid Leave Law
As we have discussed in greater detail in prior posts, the Earned Sick Leave Law poses significant compliance hurdles for New Jersey employers. The law mandates that employers provide up to a total of 40 hours of earned sick leave every benefit year. Employees earn sick leave at the rate of 1 hour for every 30 hours worked, up to a maximum of 40 hours of leave per benefit year. Alternatively, employers can provide each employee with 40 hours of earned sick leave up front.
Under the new sick leave law, workers may use paid leave for their own qualifying need or for that of a family member. The term “family member” is defined broadly to include children, grandchildren, siblings, spouses, domestic partners, civil union partners, parents, and grandparents, as well as any individual “whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship.” The law entitles employees to use earned sick leave in the following situations:
- For diagnosis, care, treatment, or recovery related to the employee’s illness;
- To care for a family member during diagnosis, care, treatment, or recovery related to the family member’s illness;
- For certain absences resulting from the employee or a family member being a victim of domestic or sexual violence;
- For time during which the employee is not able to work because of a closure of the employee’s workplace, or the school or place of care of a child of the employee, in connection with a public health emergency or a determination that the presence of the employee or child in the community would jeopardize the health of others; or
- To attend school-related conferences, meetings, or events, or to attend other meetings regarding care for the employee’s child.
Notice of Employee Rights
Under the Earned Sick Leave Law, new employees must receive the required written Notice of Employee Rights (Notice) from their employer when they begin employment, and existing employees must receive it by November 29, 2018. New Jersey employers must also post the Notice in a conspicuous and accessible place at all work sites as well as provide copies to employees upon request.
The Notice includes a blank field that requires employers to provide the start and end of their respective paid sick leave benefit year. Under the Earned Sick Leave Law, “benefit year” is defined as the period of 12 consecutive months established by an employer in which an employee shall accrue and use earned sick leave. The statute expressly provides that once the employer sets the starting date of the benefit year, it can’t be changed unless the employer notifies the Commissioner of NJDOL (Commissioner) of the change.
The Earned Sick Leave Law also mandates that employers must use the Notice in English, Spanish or any other language (a) for which the Commissioner has provided notifications and (b) which is the first language of a majority of the workforce. To date, the NJDOL has translated the Notice into 12 additional languages.
Next Steps for New Jersey Employers
On September 13, 2018, the NJDOL published regulations to implement New Jersey’s new paid sick leave law. The regulations cover numerous provisions of the law, including the accrual, advancing, use, payment, payout, and carry-over of earned sick leave. The regulations also address violations of the sick leave law, administrative penalties and fees, recordkeeping, employee notification of their rights under the law, the method for determining independent contractor status, and the process for filing a complaint alleging a violation of the law.
A public hearing on the proposed new rules was held on November 13, 2018, at the NYDOL headquarters in Trenton. The agency will also accept comments on the proposed regulations until December 14, 2018, after which it will publish its final regulations. Accordingly, employers may not have final regulations until 2019.
Nonetheless, with the compliance deadline of October 29, 2018 having already passed, New Jersey employers should have begun their compliance efforts in earnest. Given the complexity of the law and the penalties for noncompliance, we encourage all employers to discuss the new law with experienced counsel. For assistance, contact a member of the Scarinci Hollenbeck Labor & Employment Group.
If you have questions, contact us
If you have any questions or if you would like to discuss the matter further, please contact me, John Geppert, or the Scarinci Hollenbeck attorney with whom you work, at 201-806-3364.