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Earned Sick-Time Mandates Exhibit Healthy Growth at Municipal Level

Friday, April 1, 2016   (0 Comments)
Share | 04/01/16

Workers advocates want to make sure that earned sick time -- which provides employees with one hour of leave for a given number of hours put in on the job -- is a right not a reward. But rather than taking this battle to the State House, and an expected veto from Gov. Chris Christie, they’ve been working at the local level, hoping to build momentum for state action. So far, 12 municipalities have enacted some form of earned sick-time ordinance, with Plainfield becoming the latest earlier this month, joining the state’s four largest cities -- Newark, Jersey City, Paterson, and Elizabeth -- along with Trenton, East Orange, Irvington, Montclair, Bloomfield, and New Brunswick.

Activists expect several other towns to follow suit later this year, with Princeton being the next most likely. They argue that earned sick time is a public health and equity issue. Requiring employers to provide paid time off for sick workers will encourage them to stay home rather than infect coworkers and customers, while also giving low-wage workers a cushion in case they have to stay home and nurse other family members. Thus far, the only business group that has endorsed mandated sick time is the New Jersey Main Street Alliance. The state’s largest business groups -- the Chamber of Commerce, New Jersey Restaurant and Hospitality Association, and New Jersey Business and Industry Association --say that earned sick time would add to the long list of expenses that make running small businesses difficult. It could create scheduling issues and require businesses to spend more on payroll to ensure they are covered in case of illnesses.

So far, 11 of the 12 ordinances follow the same model. Businesses are required to provide all workers with one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked up to a maximum of 40 hours. The ordinance covers both full- and part-time workers and all businesses. New Brunswick’s ordinance, which took effect in January, does not cover employees who work fewer than 20 hours or per-diem nurses. And it gives businesses black-out dates on which they can require workers who call in sick to provide documentation. Senate Bill S-799, which was endorsed by a 7-6 vote of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, would cover all businesses, but would allow employees at businesses with more than 10 employees to accrue up to 72 hours of sick leave. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen) and Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester), has yet to be scheduled for a full floor vote. 

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