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Four More New Jersey Municipalities Enact Laws Mandating Paid Sick Leave For Workers

  • By: David Rich
  • Published: November 27, 2014

In September 2014, the respective Mayors of four municipalities in New Jersey — the Cities of East Orange, Passaic, and Paterson and the Township of Irvington — signed into law paid sick leave ordinances for private employees (collectively, the “Sick Leave Ordinances” or the “Ordinances”). Effective January 2015, the East Orange, Irvington, Passaic, and Paterson Sick Leave Ordinances require employers in those respective cities which employ ten or more employees to give each employee one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked by the employee, up to five days (40 hours) of paid sick time per calendar year.

Similarly, the East Orange, Irvington, Passaic, and Paterson Ordinances require employers in those respective towns which employ one to nine employees to afford each employee one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked by the employee, up to three days (24 hours) of paid sick time per calendar year.

The Passaic Sick Leave for Private Employees Ordinance, Ordinance No. 1998-14, takes effect on January 3, 2015. The East Orange Paid Sick Time for Private Employees Ordinance, Ordinance No. 21, is effective January 7, 2015. The Irvington Sick Leave for Private Employees Ordinance, Ordinance No. MC 3513, takes effect on January 8, 2015. The Paterson Sick Leave for Private Employees Ordinance, Ordinance No. 14-040, is effective January 10, 2015.

In early September 2014, the City Councils of East Orange, Passaic, and Paterson and the Town Council of Irvington had passed those municipalities’ respective Sick Leave Ordinances. In East Orange, the City Council’s vote favoring passage of the city’s Ordinance was 10 to 0. In Passaic, the City Council’s tally in favor of passage was 7 to 0. Likewise, in Paterson, the City Council’s vote was 7 to 0.

The four cities’ Sick Leave Ordinances do not apply to governmental employees. Further, the East Orange, Passaic, and Paterson Ordinances do not apply to any employee who is a member of a construction union and is covered by a collective bargaining agreement negotiated by that union. Apart from these exclusions, the four Ordinances apply to any employee who works within East Orange, Irvington, Passaic, or Paterson, as the case may be, for at least 80 hours in a year.

Workers of businesses in East Orange, Irvington, Passaic, or Paterson may carry over, from one calendar year to the next, up to 40 hours of accrued, unused paid sick time mandated by the Sick Leave Ordinances. However, the Ordinances do not require an employer to allow a worker to use more than 40 hours of paid sick time in a calendar year.

Under the Ordinances, an employee may utilize paid sick time for any of the following purposes:

  1. The employee’s mental or physical illness, injury or health condition or need for medical diagnosis, care or treatment of a mental or physical illness, injury or health condition; or the employee’s need for preventive medical care; or
  2. 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; or care of a family member who needs preventive medical care; or
  3. Closure of the employee’s place of business by order of a public official because of a public health emergency; the employee’s need to care for a child whose school or childcare provider has been closed by order of a public official because of a public health emergency; or care for a family member when it has been determined by health authorities or by a health care provider that the family 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 Sick Leave Ordinances do not require employers, upon cessation of a worker’s employment for the employer, to pay the worker for accrued, unused paid sick time.

The East Orange Department of Health and Human Services, the Irvington Department of Neighborhood Services, the Passaic Department of Human Services, Division of Health, and the Paterson Department of Health and Human Services are authorized to ensure compliance with their municipalities’ respective Sick Leave Ordinances, receive and resolve complaints, provide information about paid sick time, create notices and posters, and conduct audits and on-site investigations.

Moreover, the Sick Leave Ordinances authorize workers to prosecute claims, in the cities’ respective Municipal Courts, against their employers for violating the Ordinances. A worker or other aggrieved individual need not submit a complaint to his or her city’s designated agency before suing an employer under the city’s Ordinance.

The East Orange Municipal Court may punish a violation of the East Orange Ordinance by fining the employer up to $500 for each day on which the violation occurs or continues and/or requiring the employer to pay restitution. The Irvington and Passaic Municipal Courts may punish a violation of their cities’ Ordinances by fining the employer up to $1,000 and $2,000, respectively, for each day on which the violation occurs or continues and/or making the employer pay restitution. The Paterson Municipal Court may punish each violation of the Paterson Ordinance by fining the employer up to $2,000, imprisoning the employer for a term not exceeding 90 days, and/or ordering the employer to pay restitution.

Employers may not terminate, or otherwise retaliate against, a worker because the worker has exercised rights protected under the Ordinances. So, for example, a business may not fire, or otherwise strike back against, an employee for requesting and using paid sick time, or for submitting a complaint to the designated city agency about the employer’s alleged violation of the city’s Ordinance.

Paterson is a city in, and is the county seat of, Passaic County, New Jersey. As of the 2010 U.S. Census, Paterson’s population was 146,199, rendering it the third most populous city in New Jersey, after Newark and Jersey City. According to estimates from the Center for Women and Work at Rutgers University, the Paterson Sick Leave Ordinance will cover about 23,000 workers.

Passaic is a city in Passaic County, New Jersey. As of the 2010 U.S. Census, the city had a total population of 69,781, maintaining its status as the 15th largest municipality in New Jersey.

East Orange is a city in Essex County, New Jersey. As of the 2010 U.S. Census, the city’s population was 64,270, making it the 20th most populous municipality in New Jersey.

Irvington is a township in Essex County, New Jersey. As of the 2010 U.S. Census, the township had a total population of 53,926, making it the 30th most populous municipality in New Jersey.

Passaic, East Orange, Irvington, and Paterson are, respectively, the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth municipalities in New Jersey to enact laws mandating paid sick leave. The first and second municipalities in New Jersey to require employers to provide paid sick time were Jersey City and Newark, respectively. See this author’s February 11, 2014 blog post about Jersey City’s enactment of an ordinance requiring paid sick time, and this author’s April 25, 2014 blog post about Newark’s passage of an ordinance mandating paid sick leave.

Take-Aways for Employers

Effective January 2015, employers in East Orange, Irvington, Passaic, and Paterson, New Jersey must revise their policies concerning absence due to illness to conform to the employers’ cities’ respective Sick Leave Ordinances. Companies must modify their employee handbooks to incorporate these revised policies.

However, those businesses in East Orange, Irvington, Passaic, and Paterson that already have policies which allow time off that amounts to at least the minimum requirements under the businesses’ cities’ respective Sick Leave Ordinances, and that can be taken for the same purposes and under the same conditions as set forth in those Ordinances, are not required to provide additional paid sick time.

Further, beginning in January 2015, employers in East Orange, Irvington, Passaic, and Paterson, New Jersey must provide to each worker, at the beginning of the worker’s employment (or as soon as practicable if the worker is already employed in January 2015), written notice of the worker’s right to paid sick time under the employers’ municipalities’ respective Sick Leave Ordinances, including the amount, accrual rate, and use of paid sick time; the right to be free from retaliation; and the right to file a complaint with the designated municipal agency or to bring an action in Municipal Court. The written notice must be in English and in the primary language spoken by that worker, as long as the primary language of that worker is also the primary language of at least 10% of the employer’s workforce.

Also starting January 2015, each employer in East Orange, Irvington, Passaic, and Paterson must conspicuously post such written notice at the employer’s place of business in an accessible area.

If your company needs assistance or guidance on a labor or employment law issue and your company is located in the New York City area, call Attorney David S. Rich at (347) 941-0760.

David Rich

About the Author David S. Rich is the founding member of the Law Offices of David S. Rich, LLC,
a New York Employment and Business Litigation Law Firm, in New
York City and in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey...Read more