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Who Is Entitled to Paid Sick Leave in New Jersey?

Posted by Jamison Mark on Apr 18, 2024 9:00:00 AM
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In May 2018, Governor Phil Murphy signed New Jersey’s paid sick leave law, requiring employers of all sizes to provide up to 40 hours of earned sick leave per year for both full-time and part-time employees. While the law refers to “sick leave,” this benefit is available for a variety of purposes other than personal illness. In this article, we’ll examine who is entitled to NJ paid sick leave, how workers can access their sick pay, and how the law protects workers’ rights.


What types of workers are entitled to paid sick leave?

Most (but not all) New Jersey workers are covered by the paid sick leave law. Exceptions include construction industry workers who are covered by union contracts, public employees who receive sick leave pay under other state policies, independent contractors, and per diem health care workers. Covered employees include not only full-time but also part-time and even temporary workers. Temp agencies are responsible for providing sick leave to the employees they place.


How do employees earn paid sick leave?

Covered employees earn one hour of paid leave for every 30 hours worked, accruing up to 40 hours of leave per year. Employers must specify when the benefit year begins and ends in a written notice of employee rights, which they must provide to all new employees when they begin work as well as post in a conspicuous and accessible place at the work site. Employees may use up to 40 hours of sick leave per benefit year. Unless the employer voluntarily pays out unused sick leave at the end of the year, employees may carry up to 40 hours of unused sick leave over to the next benefit year.


How can NJ workers use their paid sick leave?

New Jersey’s sick leave law allows workers to use accrued leave for many purposes other than physical illness. Employees can also use this time to recover from injuries, care for their mental health, or assist loved ones dealing with mental or physical health issues. Additionally, the law provides paid leave for the following purposes:

  • Obtain or assist a loved one in obtaining preventive health care
  • Care for a child whose school or childcare facility is closed due to a public health emergency (but not when closed for weather-related reasons)
  • Cover time during which the employer’s business is closed due to a public health emergency
  • Quarantine based on the advice of a health care provider or public health authority
  • Attend a child’s school-related meeting or event
  • Obtain treatment or counseling, or prepare for court proceedings in connection with sexual or domestic violence against themselves or a loved one

Employees may use accrued sick leave for the care of a wide range of family members, including anyone related by blood to the employee as well as their “chosen family.”


Can employees be required to give advance notice or document the reason for their absence?

Employers can require up to seven days’ advance notice of an employee’s intent to use sick leave, if possible. In cases where isn’t possible to provide this much notice, employers may require employees to give as much notice as feasible. When an employee misses three or more consecutive workdays or takes leave on specific dates identified by the employer as high-volume days or special events, then the employer may require reasonable documentation of the purpose for the leave. However, employers may not require that medical documentation specify the condition that gives rise to the need for leave, and they must keep information shared with them confidential.


How much must employers pay for sick leave?

Employers must pay sick leave at employees’ regularly hourly rate, which must be at least the state minimum wage. When an employee’s rate of pay is variable, then the rate of pay is calculated by finding the hourly average of total earnings over the seven most recent workdays (not including any overtime earned). For tipped employees, gratuities are included in this calculation. For commissioned employees, however, the hourly rate is their base pay or the current state minimum wage, whichever is greater.


How do I get paid for sick leave?

Your employer must pay you for accrued sick time that you submit either in the same pay period in which it is used or in the following pay period. Sick pay should be included in your regular paycheck or provided in another form that you can easily access. If your employer fails to provide payment under these terms, you can file a wage complaint with the NJ Division of Wage and Hour Compliance. Depending on the nature of the complaint, it may be handled by mail, a field investigator, or referred to a wage collection proceeding. If you disagree with the result of an initial investigation, you have the right to request a wage collection proceeding.


Can my employer punish me for using sick leave or telling others about it?

New Jersey law prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for requesting or using sick leave, communicating with others about the sick leave law, advising other employees of their rights, filing a complaint with the Department of Labor, or participating in an investigation of an alleged violation. If you’ve been fired, demoted, threatened, disciplined, had your hours reduced, or subjected to any other adverse employment action in connection with exercising your rights under the sick leave law, consult with an experienced employment attorney.


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The Mark Law Firm has a reputation for fighting for the rights of NJ workers. We’ve recovered millions in antidiscrimination claims for our clients and have vast experience pursuing a variety of employee claims, including wrongful termination, wage and hour, retaliation for whistleblowing, and more. You can find highlights of some of our victories on our news page.


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Topics: Employment Law

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