On November 3, 2015, voters in the City of Elizabeth approved a paid sick leave ordinance, making it the tenth municipality in the State of New Jersey to require paid sick leave. The ordinance, which goes into effect on March 2, 2016 (120 days after voter approval) is nearly identical to sick leave ordinances already passed in the cities of Passaic, East Orange, Paterson, Irvington, Montclair, Trenton, and Bloomfield. Each of these ordinances closely tracks, but is not identical to Newark’s paid sick leave ordinance, while Jersey City’s sick leave ordinance does not track Newark’s ordinance.
Specifically, the Elizabeth ordinance requires all private-sector employers to allow those employees who work in Elizabeth for at least 80 hours per year to accrue paid sick leave at a rate of one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked. Employers with 10 or more employees must provide up to 40 hours of accrued paid sick leave each calendar year, while employers with fewer than 10 employees must provide up to 24 hours of accrued paid sick time in a calendar year. Employees who work in the food service, child care, or home health care industries are entitled to up to 40 hours of accrued paid sick leave each year.
Like its counterparts in Passaic, East Orange, Paterson, Irvington, Montclair, Trenton, and Bloomfield, the Elizabeth ordinance (1) allows accrued sick time to be used in either hourly increments or the smallest increment that the employer’s payroll system uses to account for absences or use of other time, and (2) allows employers to require reasonable documentation signed by a healthcare professional substantiating any paid sick leave taken for three consecutive days or instances. The ordinance prohibits employers from requiring that the documentation explain the nature of the illness. Under certain circumstances, the ordinance does not apply to employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement that expressly waives the right to paid sick leave in clear and unambiguous terms.
Aside from providing paid sick leave, employers affected by Elizabeth’s ordinance (as well as those in Passaic, East Orange, Paterson, Irvington, Montclair, Trenton, and Bloomfield) must also provide all covered employees with written notice explaining their rights under the ordinance upon hire or, for current employees, as soon as practicable following the law’s effective date. Employers must also display a poster (which is not yet available) informing employees of their rights under the ordinance. The ordinance also requires employers to maintain adequate records documenting the amount of hours worked by each eligible employee and the amount of sick leave taken. Potential penalties for violations of the law include a fine, payment of any sick leave unlawfully withheld, restitution, reinstatement, and injunctive or declaratory relief.
For the status of bills to enact a statewide paid sick leave law, see our August 2015 article, “Disagreement Between State Senate and Assembly Stalls Paid Sick Leave Bill.”