By Jeff Schervone
New Jersey’s Earned Sick Leave Law went into effect on October 29, 2018, and the Department of Labor and Workforce Development (“LWD”) launched a website with information for employers and employees.
Under the new law, most employers must provide their employees with earned sick leave. “For every 30 hours worked, the employee shall accrue one hour of earned sick leave, except that an employer may provide an employee with the full complement [40 hours] of earned sick leave for a benefit year.” N.J.S.A. 34:11D-2(a).
An employer is in compliance with Sick Leave Law if the employer already “offers paid time off [PTO] which is fully paid and shall include, but is not limited to personal days, vacation days, and sick days, and may be used for the purposes of section 3 of this act in the manner provided by this act, and is accrued at a rate equal to or greater than the rate described in this section.”
Proposed regulations are in the comments phase, pending adoption expected in January, 2019. The regulations give broad authority to the Commissioner of Labor to bring enforcement actions for violations carrying criminal and civil liability and penalties. Employee claims for Earned Sick Leave fall under the jurisdiction of the Wage Collection Division (that is, up to $30,000) before a Referee as reflected in a revised Wage Claim form posted on the LWD website.
Notably for separated employees, the law is consistent with existing New Jersey wage and hour law and does not require an employer to payout earned sick leave upon separation absent a written policy or agreement that provides such a payout. The new law provides that: “Unless an employer policy or collective bargaining agreement provides for the payment of accrued earned sick leave upon termination, resignation, retirement or other separation from employment, an employee shall not be entitled under this section to payment of unused earned sick leave upon the separation from employment.” N.J.S.A. 34:11D-3(d).
The Earned Sick Leave Law, together with the recent Equal Pay Act, and a pending Senate Bill S121 banning certain employment-related nondisclosure agreements all demonstrate that Trenton intends to scrutinize and regulate employers in New Jersey more closely than ever.