Under the federal Family Medical Leave Act, employees have the right to unpaid leave for family or personal medical reasons. New Jersey has adopted a similar state law requiring unpaid leave for qualifying employees. Getting paid for sick days, on the other hand, is a valuable employee benefit. Generally, employees do have a right to paid time off for sick leave in New Jersey.
Is paid sick leave required in New Jersey?
Under New Jersey's Earned Sick Leave law, employers of all sizes must provide full-time, part-time, and temporary employees with up to 40 hours of earned sick leave per year so they can care for themselves or a loved one. The law requires that employers pay employees the same rate that they normally earn (and in no case less than the minimum wage) during their period of earned sick leave. Further, law prohibits employers from retaliating against any employee who takes sick leave. If your employer has an existing sick leave policy either in the handbook or your employment agreement, it must meet or exceed the requirements of the Earned Sick Leave law.
Most New Jersey employees have the right to earned sick leave so they can:
- care for their own, or a loved one's, physical or mental health or injury;
- address domestic or sexual violence against themselves or a loved one;
- attend a child's school-related meeting, conference, or event;
- quarantine based on the advice of a health care provider or public health authority (including the quarantine required when returning to New Jersey from certain states); and
- take care of their children when school or child care is closed due to an epidemic or public health emergency.
Who is covered under the sick leave law?
Employers must provide earned sick leave to full- and part-time employees, as well as to temporary employees. However, employers are not required to provide earned sick leave to the following kinds of employees:
- individuals employed in the construction industry under a union contract;
- per diem health care employees;
- public employees who are provided with sick leave at full pay under any other NJ law or rule; and
- independent contractors who do not meet the definition of an employee under NJ law.
How do I "earn" sick leave?
An employee earns – or accrues – 1 hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked, up to a maximum of 40 hours per year. Employees begin accruing sick time immediately upon hire, but the law allows employers to prohibit use of earned sick leave until they have worked for the employer for 120 days.
At the end of the year, can I carry over my sick leave?
An employee may carry over up to 40 hours of unused earned sick leave to the next benefit year. However, employers are required only to let an employee use up to 40 hours of earned sick leave per benefit year. An employer may choose — but is not required — to pay an employee for unused earned sick leave at the end of the benefit year or upon termination of employment.
For employers and employees alike, understanding your rights and obligations under the New Jersey's Earned Sick Leave law is important. If you have employment concerns, a seasoned employment attorney can help you navigate the finer details of relevant state and federal laws. We invite you to reach out to our team to schedule a consultation today.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.