Jersey City, New Jersey Passes Law Mandating Paid Sick Leave For Workers

Jersey City, New Jersey Passes Law Mandating Paid Sick Leave For Workers

 On October 21, 2013, Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop signed into law the Jersey City Earned Sick Time Ordinance, Ordinance 13.097 (the “Jersey City Earned Sick Time Ordinance,” the “Earned Sick Time Ordinance,” the “Ordinance,” or the “JCESTO”).  Effective January 24, 2014, the Earned Sick Time Ordinance requires employers in Jersey City, New Jersey which employ 10 or more employees to give each employee one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked by the employee, up to five days (40 hours) of paid sick time per calendar year.

  1. Further, also effective January 24, 2014, the Ordinance requires businesses in Jersey City, New Jersey which employ one to nine employees to afford, to each employee, one hour of unpaid sick time for every 30 hours worked, up to five days (40 hours) per year.

On September 25, 2013, the Jersey City Council had passed the Earned Sick Time bill by a vote of 7 to 1.

The Earned Sick Time Ordinance does not apply to governmental employees.  Apart from this exclusion, the Ordinance applies to any employee who works within Jersey City for at least 80 hours in a year.

Employees of companies in Jersey City which employ 10 or more employees  may carry over, from one calendar year to the next, up to 40 hours of accrued, unused paid sick leave mandated by the Earned Sick Time Ordinance.  However,  the JCESTO does not require an employer to allow an employee to use more than 40 hours of paid sick time in a calendar year.

Similarly, employees of companies in Jersey City which employ one to nine employees  may carry over, from one calendar year to the next, up to 40 hours of accrued, unused, unpaid sick leave to which the Earned Sick Time Ordinance entitles them.  That said,  the JCESTO does not require an employer to permit a worker to use more than 40 hours of unpaid sick time in a calendar year.

Under the Ordinance, an employee may use paid sick time for any of the following purposes:

  1. The employee’s mental or physical illness, injury or health condition or need for medical diagnosis, care or treatment of a mental or physical illness, injury or health condition or need for preventive medical care; or
  2. Care of a family member who needs medical diagnosis, care or treatment of a mental or physical illness, injury or health condition or who needs preventive medical care; or
  3. Closure of the employee’s place of business by order of a public official because of a public health emergency or the employee’s need to care for a child whose school or childcare provider has been closed by order of a public official because of a public health emergency.

The Earned Sick Time Ordinance does not require employers, upon cessation of a worker’s employment for the employer, to pay the worker for accrued, unused paid sick time.

The Jersey City Department of Health and Human Services (the “City Department of Health and Human Services”) is authorized to enforce the Earned Sick Time Ordinance, adjudicate complaints, provide information about paid sick time, create notices and posters, and conduct audits and on-site investigations.  In conducting audits and investigations, the City Department of Health and Human Services may interview workers and former workers in private, outside the presence of the employer.  Each violation of the JCESTO is punishable by a fine of up to $1,250 and/or a period of community service not exceeding 90 days.

Further, the Earned Sick Time Ordinance creates a private cause of action by a worker or other aggrieved individual against an employer for violating the Ordinance.  A worker or other aggrieved person need not submit a complaint to the Jersey City Department of Health and Human Services before suing an employer under the Ordinance.

Employers may not terminate, or otherwise retaliate against, an employee because the employee has exercised rights protected under the Ordinance.  So, for example,  a business may not fire, or otherwise strike back against, an employee for requesting and using paid sick time, or for submitting a complaint to the City Department of Health and Human Services about the employer’s alleged violation of the Ordinance.

Jersey City is the seat of Hudson County, New Jersey.  As of the 2010 U.S. Census, the population of Jersey City was 247,597, making it the second-most populous city in New Jersey, after Newark.  About 30,000 employees work for employers in Jersey City, New Jersey which employ 10 or more employees.

Jersey City is the sixth city in the nation to enact a law mandating paid sick leave.  The other five such cities are New York City; Portland, Oregon; San Francisco; Seattle; and Washington, D.C.  See also this author’s July 5, 2013 blog post about New York City’s enactment of a law requiring paid sick time.

Take-Aways for Employers

Effective January 24, 2014, employers in Jersey City, New Jersey must modify their policies concerning absence due to illness to conform to the Earned Sick Time Ordinance.  Businesses must revise their employee handbooks to incorporate these modified policies.

However, those companies in Jersey City that already have policies which allow time off that amounts to at least the minimum requirements under the JCESTO, and that can be taken for the same purposes and under the same conditions as set forth in the Ordinance, are not required to provide additional paid sick time.

If your company needs assistance or guidance on a labor or employment law issue and your company is located in the New York City area, call Attorney David S. Rich at (212) 209-3972.

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