Pandemic Prompts Proposed Amendments to New Jersey Earned Sick Leave Law

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Pandemic Prompts Proposed Amendments to New Jersey Earned Sick Leave Law

By Francine Foner, Esq., Ty Hyderally, Esq.

On October 10, 2018, the New Jersey Legislature passed the New Jersey Earned Sick Leave Law, N.J.S.A. 34:11D-1 (“NJESLL”) On May 7, 2020, responding to the unique circumstances created by the COVID-19 pandemic, legislation was introduced in both houses of the New Jersey Legislature to amend the NJESLL. Identical bills (S2453 and A4209) propose several amendments to the NJESLL which take into account the exposure of healthcare workers, including per diem health care workers, and special risks assumed by essential workers, during a health crisis or other state of emergency.

The proposed amendments, which would take effect immediately upon enactment, eliminate the exclusion of per diem health care employees from the earned sick leave benefits provided by the NJESLL. In addition, the number of hours of earned sick leave that a worker may annually accrue and use, and carry forward from one year to another, would increase from 40 to 56.  Essential workers would also be eligible to earn and use an additional 120 hours of sick leave that can be used during and after the state of emergency, but not carried forward from one year to another.

The proposed legislation also adds bereavement time as an additional category for which an employee can use earned sick leave, entitling an employee to two days of bereavement time, including time attending a funeral, for the death of a family member of the employee, at any time within the one-month period immediately following the death. A family member is broadly defined to mean “a child, grandchild, sibling, spouse, domestic partner, civil union partner, parent, or grandparent of an employee, or a spouse, domestic partner, or civil union partner of a parent or grandparent of the employee, or a sibling of a spouse, domestic partner, or civil union partner of the employee, or any other individual related by blood to the employee or whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship.

The proposed amendments would also eliminate the current 120-day period after hiring in which an employee is not eligible to use accrued earned sick leave, and increase from two to five the number of sick days after which an employer may require documentation by a health professional of the need for leave.  Further, the amendments would eliminate the requirement that such documentation be signed, and specifies if isolation is needed to reduce health hazards, the determination by the professional of the need for leave may be conducted by telephone, video or other remote means.

These proposed amendments to the NJESLL are necessary to effectuate the intent of the NJESLL to provide paid sick leave for most New Jersey employees, for reasons not covered by other laws. The bill has so far been referred to each of the Senate and Assembly’s Labor Committees and awaits further action.

This blog is for informational purposes only.  It does not constitute legal advice, and may not reasonably be relied upon as such.  If you face a legal issue, you should consult a qualified attorney for independent legal advice with regard to your particular set of facts.  This blog may constitute attorney advertising.  This blog is not intended to communicate with anyone in a state or other jurisdiction where such a blog may fail to comply with all laws and ethical rules of that state of jurisdiction.

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