News

New Year Brings New Sick Leave for New Brunswick

By Steven M. Berlin, Esq. and Michael Goldwasser

Effective this New Year, the growing community of New Brunswick, in the central part of New Jersey near Edison and Woodbridge, enacted its own paid sick leave ordinance with the aim of reducing public and private health care costs, promoting preventative health care and preventing opportunities for contagion.

Beginning January 6, 2016, New Brunswick requires that businesses with five or more full-time equivalent employees provide paid sick and safe time. Covered employers with up to nine total employees are required to provide up to 24 hours of sick and safe time per year, while covered employers with 10 or more total employees are required to provide up to 40 hours for full-time employees and 24 hours for part-time employees. The benefit does not extend to employees of New Brunswick-based employment agencies who physically work in another town and do not use transportation provided through the agency.

Employees under New Brunswick's ordinance are defined using New Jersey's statutory definition in the NJ Wage and Hour Law (NJSA 34:11-56a1(h)), so business owners, partners, and principals do not count. Existing employees may begin using their earned paid sick and safe time May 5, 2016. New hires, however, must wait until the 120th calendar day of employment to use their time.

Covered employees earn 1 hour of time for every 35 hours worked, up to their annual cap, and may use it for a variety of reasons, including to address a personal health issue, the health issues of a partner, or family member, and issues relating to domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. Employees do not have to disclose why they need to use their sick or safe time, and under most circumstances may not be required to provide a doctor's note or similar documentation. New Brunswick does require, however, that employees notify their employer as soon as reasonably practicable after they are aware of the need to use their time.

Supporters of paid sick leave ordinances argue they help reduce health care costs, which may be why they keep popping up all across America. But for all the simplicity of the purpose for which they are enacted, they tend to have many moving parts. As New Jersey employers are finding out, they also come in all shapes and sizes, so compliance with the law of one city does not mean compliance with the law of another.

New Brunswick's ordinance differs from other New Jersey communities' paid sick leave ordinances in several respects. For example, in other communities, such as Newark, Jersey City, Paterson, and Trenton, new hires may begin using their earned time on the 90th calendar day of employment rather than the 120th calendar day. Also, employees in those communities earn their paid leave time at a rate of 1 hour for every 30 hours worked rather than 1 for every 35. Finally, New Brunswick's ordinance uniquely allows paid leave for safe time purposes; other communities do not require paid time off for purposes related to domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.

Employers should determine whether any of their employees are eligible for paid sick or safe time under local or state law. It is critical for covered employers to develop a system that accurately tracks their employees' earned time and to monitor when their employees are absent. Failure to do so may result in a lawsuit or fines. If you have any questions or would like additional information, please do not hesitate to contact Steven M. Berlin at +1-212-422-1200 or sberlin@agfjlaw.com, or any other member of Abram, Gorelick, Friedman & Jacobson, LLP's Employment & Labor Law Practice.