New Jersey DOL Earned Sick Leave Law

On January 6, 2020, the New Jersey Department of Labor issued Earned Sick Leave Rules that further explain employer responsibilities under the New Jersey Earned Sick Leave Law, which took effect on October 29, 2018.

New Jersey’s Sick Leave Law gives New Jersey employees the right to accrue and use up to 40 hours of paid sick leave (leave) in any period of 12 consecutive months. Employers who violate this law can be subject to significant administrative, civil, and potentially criminal charges.

With a few exceptions, the law covers all full and part-time New Jersey employees. Out-of-state employers with employees in New Jersey must provide leave to its employees who work in New Jersey.

Firstly, these final regulations eliminate the requirement that an employer establish a single benefit year applicable to all employees. The NJDOL explains that an employer may lawfully utilize an employee’s anniversary year as the benefit year for purposes of the leave. Leave hours can be accrued at a rate of one hour of leave for every 30 hours worked, or employers may choose to make the entire 40 hours of leave available to employees at the beginning of the benefit year, as defined by the employer.

Secondly, employees may use accrued leave after their 120th day of employment, for any of the following reasons:

  • Employee’s Mental/Physical Illness: Diagnosis, care or treatment of, or recovery from, an employee’s own mental or physical illness, including preventive medical care.
  • Family Member’s Mental/Physical Illness: Aid or care for a covered family member during diagnosis, care or treatment of, or recovery from, the family member’s mental or physical illness, including preventive medical care.
  • Victim of Domestic/Sexual Violence: Circumstances related to an employee’s or their family member’s status as a victim of domestic or sexual violence (including the need to obtain related medical treatment, seek counseling, relocate or participate in related legal services).
  • Public Health Emergency: Closure of an employee’s workplace or of a school/childcare of an employee’s child because of a public official’s order relating to a public health emergency.
  • School-Related Parental/Guardian Attendance: Time needed by the employee in connection with a child of the employee to attend a school-related conference, meeting, function, or other event requested or required by a school administrator, teacher, or other professional staff members responsible for the child’s education, or to attend a meeting regarding care provided to the child in connection with the child’s health condition or disability.

Employers may require employees to submit reasonable documentation if they use leave for three or more consecutive days, or if the employee uses leave for an unforeseeable absence on “certain dates” identified by the employer in advance. The new rules provide examples of acceptable documentation.

A failure to comply with the leave law constitutes a failure to pay wages in accordance with the New Jersey Wage Payment Law. That law requires employer to pay non-exempt employees at least twice a month on regular paydays designated in advance. The requirement applies to any payout of earned sick leave at the conclusion of the benefit year.

If you have questions about time off or sick leave related to your employment, you can contact us at mschley@schleylaw.com.