On September 25, 2013, the City of Jersey City became the first municipality in New Jersey to pass paid sick leave legislation. City Ordinance 13.097, which takes effect on January 23, 2014, makes Jersey City the seventh U.S. state or municipality to enact legislation mandating paid sick leave. Previously, New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, and Portland passed similar laws. The District of Columbia and the state of Connecticut have also passed such legislation. The Jersey City ordinance mandates that individuals employed by employers with 10 or more employees accrue 1 hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked, up to a maximum accrual of 40 hours. Those individuals employed by employers with less than 10 employees will accrue sick time under the same formula, however it need not be paid.
The ordinance covers all employees who work in Jersey City. Additionally, it provides coverage to all non-Jersey City based employees employed by a Jersey City business if the individual works within the city limits at least 80 hours per year.
Employees will begin to accrue paid or unpaid sick time on the first day of employment, but are not entitled to use such time until the 90th day of employment. While accrued time may carry over to the following year, employers are not required to provide more than 40 hours of paid sick time to an employee within a calendar year or to carry over more than 40 hours. The ordinance does not require employers to compensate employees for unused accrued sick days at the cessation of their employment. Employers need to be mindful, however, of their own policies on this issue.
The Jersey City ordinance provides that an employee must give verbal notice to the employer, as soon as practicable, in order to use accrued sick leave. If the employee wishes to use sick leave for more than 3 consecutive days, however, the employer may request reasonable documentation. Sick time can be used for any of the following reasons:
- An employee’s mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition; an employee’s need for medical diagnosis, care, or treatment of a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition; an employee’s need for preventive medical care;
- 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; care of a family member who needs preventive medical care; and
- Closure of the employee’s place of business by order of a public official due to a public health emergency or an employee’s need to care for a child whose school or place of care has been closed by order of a public official due to a public health emergency, or care for a family member when it has been determined by the health authorities having jurisdiction or by a health care provider that the family in 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 ordinance prevents employers from requiring employees to find a replacement before using sick leave. Employers are also prohibited from interfering with, restraining, or denying the employees rights under this ordinance, as well as taking retaliatory or adverse employment action against an employee who exercises his/her rights.
Employers who are found to be in violation of this ordinance will be subject to the penalty prescribed in Jersey City Municipal Code §1-25. For each individual infraction of the ordinance, the maximum penalty will be, in the discretion of the Court, a fine of up to $1,250.00 and/or community service not to exceed 90 days. Additionally, employers who do not adhere to the notice and posting requirements of the ordinance will be subject to a civil fine in an amount up to $100 for each employee who was not given appropriate notice and $500 for each establishment in which a poster was not displayed.
For answers to questions regarding the Jersey City ordinance, please feel free to contact an attorney in the Gibbons Employment & Labor Department.
Marisa N. Hourdajian is an Associate in the Gibbons Employment & Labor Law Department.