Newark, New Jersey Enacts Law Mandating Paid Sick Leave For Workers

Newark, New Jersey Enacts Law Mandating Paid Sick Leave For Workers

 On January 29, 2014, Newark Mayor Luis Quintana signed into law the Newark Sick Leave for Private Employees Ordinance, Ordinance 13-2010 (the “Newark Sick Leave Ordinance,” the “Sick Leave Ordinance,” the “Ordinance,” or the “NSLPEO”) . Effective May 29, 2014, the Sick Leave Ordinance requires employers in Newark, New Jersey which employ 10 or more employees to afford 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.

Further, also effective May 29, 2014, the Ordinance requires businesses in Newark, New Jersey which employ one to nine employees to give, to each employee, one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked, up to three days (24 hours) per year.

On January 28, 2014, the Newark Municipal Council passed the Sick Leave for Private Employees bill by a vote of 6 to 0. The Sick Leave Ordinance does not apply to governmental employees. Apart from this exclusion, the Ordinance applies to any employee who works within Newark for not less than 80 hours in a year.

Employees of businesses in Newark may carry over, from one calendar year to the next, up to 40 hours of accrued, unused paid sick time mandated by the Sick Leave Ordinance. However,  the NSLPEO does not require an employer to allow a worker to utilize more than 40 hours of paid sick time in a calendar year.

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

  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 the employee’s need for preventive medical care; or
  2. Care of a family member with a mental or physical illness, injury or health condition; care of a family member who needs medical diagnosis, care or treatment of a mental or physical illness, injury or health condition; or care of a family member 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; 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; or care for a family member when it has been determined by health authorities or by a health care provider that the family member’s presence in the community would jeopardize the health of others because of the family member’s exposure to a communicable disease, whether or not the family member has actually contracted the communicable disease.

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

The Newark Department of Child and Family Well-Being (the “City Department of Child and Family Well-Being”) is authorized to ensure compliance with the Sick Leave Ordinance, receive and resolve complaints, provide information about paid sick time, create notices and posters, and conduct audits and on-site investigations.

Further, the Sick Leave Ordinance creates authorizes workers to prosecute claims, in Newark Municipal Court, against their employers for violating the Ordinance. A worker or other aggrieved person need not submit a complaint to the Newark Department of Child and Family Well-Being before suing an employer under the Ordinance.

The Newark Municipal Court may punish each violation of the NSLPEO by fining the employer up to $1,000, imprisoning the employer for a term not exceeding 90 days, compelling the employer to perform community services for a term not longer than 90 days, and/or requiring the employer to pay restitution.

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 leave, or for submitting a complaint to the City Department of Child and Family Well-Being about the employer’s purported violation of the Ordinance.

Newark is the county seat of Essex, New Jersey. As of the 2010 U.S. Census, the population of Newark was 277,140, making it the most populous city in New Jersey. According to the Newark Municipal Council, the Newark Sick Leave Ordinance will give paid sick time to about 40,000 employees in Newark, New Jersey who presently lack paid sick time.

Newark is the second city in New Jersey, after Jersey City, to enact a law requiring paid sick time. See this author’s February 11, 2014 blog post about Jersey City’s passage of an ordinance requiring paid sick leave.

Further, Newark is the seventh city in the country to enact a law mandating paid sick time. The five such cities outside New Jersey are New York City; Portland, Oregon; San Francisco; Seattle; and Washington, D.C. See this author’s July 5, 2013 blog post  about New York City’s enactment of an ordinance requiring paid sick time, and this author’s March 17, 2014 blog post about New York City’s expansion of the scope of its paid sick leave ordinance.

Take-Aways for Employers

Effective May 29, 2014, employers in Newark, New Jersey must revise their policies concerning absence due to illness to conform to the Sick Leave for Private Employees Ordinance. Companies must modify their employee handbooks to incorporate these revised policies.

However, those businesses in Newark that already have policies which allow time off that amounts to at least the minimum requirements under the NSLPEO, 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.

Further, beginning on May 29, 2014, employers in Newark, New Jersey must provide to each worker, at the beginning of the worker’s employment (or as soon as practicable if the worker is already employed on May 29, 2014), written notice of the employee’s right to paid sick time under the NSLPEO, including the amount, accrual rate, and use of paid sick time; the right to be free from retaliation; and the right to file a complaint with the City Department of Child and Family Well-Being or to bring an action in Newark Municipal Court. The written notice must be in English and in the primary language spoken by that worker, as long as the primary language of that worker is also the primary language of at least 10% of the employer’s workforce.

Also starting May 29, each employer in Newark must conspicuously post such written notice at the employer’s place of business in an accessible area.

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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