New Brunswick Now Requires Paid Sick & Safe Leave for Employees

On December 17, 2015, the City of New Brunswick joined the growing list of municipalities in New Jersey requiring private sector employers to provide paid sick leave to employees.  The new law, effective January 6, 2016, also adds safe leave for domestic violence which is uncharacteristic of ordinances previously enacted by other municipalities in New Jersey.

Accrual of Paid Sick and Safe Leave:

Employees will now accrue one hour of paid sick or safe time for every 35 hours actually worked within the City of New Brunswick.  For employers with 10 or more full-time equivalent employees, full-time employees can accrue up to 40 hours of paid sick and safe leave in a calendar year. Employers with 10 or more employees are required to provide part-time employees with up to 24 hours of paid sick leave in a calendar year. For purposes of the Ordinance, an employee who averages 35 hours per week of work time is considered to be “full-time” and an employee who averages between 20 hours and 35 hours per week is considered to be “part-time.”  Employers with fewer than 10 employees are required to provide employees with up to 24 hours of paid sick leave in a calendar year.

Employees, however, must wait until May 5, 2016 (or 120 days after they started work, if hired after January 6, 2015) to start using their accrued paid leave.  Employers must allow unused paid sick or safe time to be carried over to the following calendar year.

Individuals working from home, working per diem, temporary hospital employees and individuals defined as an independent contractor are not subject to the provisions of this Ordinance.  The Ordinance also does not apply to employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement,  to the extent that such requirements are expressly waived in the collective bargaining agreement in clear and unambiguous terms.

Qualifications for Sick and Safe Leave

Employees are entitled to use sick leave for their own mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition, need for medical diagnosis or treatment, or need for preventative medical care,  the care of a family member, or instances necessitated by a public health emergency.  Safe leave is also available to enable employees to obtain, or assist a family member, to obtain legal, medical or other assistance related to an incident of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.

Where the need to use paid sick or safe time is foreseeable, an employer may require reasonable advance notice of the intention to use paid sick or safe time.  The Ordinance also permits employers to request “reasonable documentation” evidencing the need for sick or safe time.  For safe leave, “reasonable documentation” may include a police report, court order, documentation that the employee or the employee’s family member is experiencing domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, or an employee’s written statement.

The Ordinance also includes specific provisions for employees of “eating and/or drinking establishment[s]” which allows the employer to request “reasonable documentation” to substantiate the use of time under the Ordinance on certain federal and other recognized holidays.

Notice and Posting Requirements:

New Brunswick employers must also provide written notice (available on the City’s website) to employees explaining their rights upon hire or, for current employees, as soon as practicable after January 6, 2016. Employers must also post that same notice to inform employees of their rights under the Ordinance in a conspicuous and accessible location.  The poster shall also be in English and in any language that is the first language of at least 10% of the employer’s workforce.

Fines and Penalties

Penalties for non-compliance range from $100.00 to $2,000.00.  An employer will also be subject to payment of restitution in the amount of any paid sick and safe time unlawfully withheld. The Ordinance also includes a provision prohibiting an employer from retailing against an employee for taking leave or for interfering with, restraining or denying any rights guaranteed by the Ordinance.

For more information regarding implementing New Brunswick’s sick and safe leave requirements or how our business can develop a compliant paid sick leave policy, please Dina M. Mastellone, Esq., Director of the firm’s Human Resources Practice Group, at dmastellone@nullgenovaburns.com or 973-533-0777 or Nicole M. Amato, Esq., Associate, in the firm’s Human Resources Practices Group at nmamato@nullgenovaburns.com.