In New Jersey, most employees are protected by the state’s earned sick leave law. Under this law, employees working for private employers are entitled to receive 40 hours of earned sick leave from their employers each year that they can use to care for themselves or their immediate family members. The New Jersey earned sick leave law has been effective in the Garden State since 2018 and applies to nearly all employers regardless of size. This law mandates employers provide paid sick leave to their employees and allows employees to accrue sick leave hours. Here’s what to know about your right to earn sick leave in New Jersey from the employment attorneys at Swartz Swidler.
What Are Employees Entitled to Under the Earned Sick Leave Law?
Under the New Jersey earned sick leave law, each employee is entitled to accrue one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked for an employer. Employees can save up sick leave hours to accrue a maximum of 40 hours in one year. Employers must set the start date of an employee’s benefit year and can’t change the dates without notifying the state and complying with various regulatory requirements. The established benefit year must apply to all employees working at the same company.
While the law establishes a maximum accrual of 40 hours of sick leave in a benefit year, employers can provide more sick leave hours if they wish. Employees can carry over a maximum of 40 unused hours of earned sick leave from one year to the next. However, employers can instead choose to pay out an employee’s accrued sick leave or give employees the choice of either carrying over the unused hours or receiving a payout for them. If the employer or the employee chooses to have the unused hours paid out, this must happen during the final month of the benefit year.
Employers and Employees that Aren’t Covered by the Earned Sick Leave Law
While the New Jersey earned sick leave law applies to most employers in the state, the following exceptions exist:
- Public employers and employees with mandatory paid sick leave requirements in place
- Hospital employers for per diem hospital workers
- Construction workers who are working under a collective bargaining agreement
Rights Under New Jersey’s Earned Sick Leave Law
Most employees in the state are entitled to accrue sick leave hours throughout a benefits year up to 40. When taken for a legitimate purpose, employers must pay workers their regular hourly rates, including salary, wages, tips, or commissions. Employers can’t deny an employee’s legitimate request to take sick leave for a valid reason and are prohibited from retaliating against workers who inquire about or take sick leave hours from work. Prohibited retaliation includes any action an employer might take that adversely impacts an employee, including the following:
- Deductions from pay
- Unwanted job transfers
- Failure to provide the same training opportunities as others enjoy
Employers who refuse to give employees sick leave when they have valid reasons for requesting it or retaliate against employees for requesting or taking leave from work can be held liable to pay the employees damages. Breaking the earned sick leave law is a violation of the wage and hour law in New Jersey.
What Are Valid Reasons for Taking Earned Sick Leave From Work?
The earned sick leave law in New Jersey provides multiple valid reasons for employees to take earned sick leave from work, including the following:
- Leave for the employee to take care of their own medical conditions, including preventative health care, injuries, physical or mental illnesses, or other conditions
- Leave for the employee to address a family member’s medical care, including a child, sibling, grandchild, domestic partner, spouse, grandparent, parent, a partner in a civil union, or another person who is a blood relative or has a relationship with the employee that is equal to a familial relationship
- Leave for the employee to address issues related to being a sexual or domestic violence victim or to help a family member who is a victim of sexual or domestic violence, including obtaining medical or psychological treatment, attending a victim services organization, receiving legal services, attending court proceedings, and others
- Leave for the employee when the workplace, child care facility, or a child’s school is closed because of a health emergency
- Leave to attend a child’s school meeting, conference, or another required event
Employees who know in advance that they will need to use paid sick leave hours can be required to provide notice of up to seven days to their employer. When the need for leave is unforeseeable, the employee should provide as much notice as possible to the employer. An employee can be required to submit documentation for the need to take sick leave for three or more days in a row and in other specific circumstances.
Employers are not required to grant paid sick leave to employees for any other reasons beyond those listed above. If an employee takes sick leave for an invalid reason, the employer is free to take disciplinary action against them.
Consult an Employment Attorney
If your employer does not allow you to accrue earned sick leave hours, has denied your request to take sick leave for a valid reason, or has retaliated against you for using your accrued benefits, you should talk to the attorneys at Swartz Swidler about your rights. Call us for a free case evaluation today at (856) 685-7420.