New Jersey passed a state-wide paid sick leave law which goes into effect on October 29, 2018. The law will allow employees to take up to 40 hours of paid time off annually for a covered reason, such as illness or preventative treatment, for themselves or a covered individual.
Most employers are covered by the law, except construction workers covered by collective bargaining agreements, certain per diem healthcare employees, and public employees who already receive sick leave under other state laws. This state-wide law is very similar to many of the local laws that most companies already follow. Covered employees will be able to accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to a maximum of 40 hours in a benefit year. (Benefit year means the period of 12 consecutive months established by an employer in which an employee shall accrue and use earned sick leave). Alternatively, the employers can frontload this time annually at the beginning of their benefit year.
Local law preemption
The new law will preempt local laws, however, existing employees who have accrued but not used paid sick leave under the local laws must be permitted to use that leave in accordance with the local law until it is at a zero balance. Essentially, the time previously accrued under these laws is not forfeited with the new state law, but employers will not need to accrue or provide time in accordance with the local laws after October 29, 2018.
Employers must keep records under this law showing hours worked by employees and earned sick time accrued for a period of five years. Recordkeeping also includes documents showing any time advanced, used, paid, and paid out and carried over by employees.
Failing to keep accurate records can expose the employer to unfavorable presumptions of non-compliance and emphasis on employee’s account of contested sick time.
Failure to maintain accurate records can also lead to fines and penalties. Employers will not need to track how many hours an exempt individual works if they either front-load the sick time or assume for purposes of accrual the employee works 40 hours per week.
Posters and Handbook Policy
Poster: The NJ DOL has adopted a Sick Leave Poster which must be distributed to all employees as soon as possible but not later than November 2, 2018. Employers should also provide it to new hires going forward and when an employee requests a copy of the notice. In addition, the poster should be displayed in a conspicuous place such as an employee breakroom.
The poster has been released in English and will be released in approximately 10 other languages. The notice must be posted and distributed in any language that is believed to be the first or primary language of a majority of the employer’s workforce.
• Sick Time Poster link: https://www.state.nj.us/labor/forms_pdfs/mw565sickleaveposter.pdf
• Sick Time Poster - other languages will be available here as the state posts them: https://www.state.nj.us/labor/lwdhome/content/employerpacketforms.html
Handbook Policy: It is recommended that employers adopt a NJ Sick Leave Policy for their handbooks. An HR consultant or employment lawyer can draft a policy that provides paid time off hours in the beginning of the year, known as “frontloading, or one that allows employees to accrue PTO hours over the course of the calendar year.