During the past couple of weeks, the New Jersey legislature has been active on the employment law front, passing (1) the New Jersey Paid Sick Leave Act and (2) the Equal Pay Act.
Paid Sick Leave Act
The New Jersey Senate has passed the Paid Sick Leave Act, and it should soon be signed into law by the governor. The Act will pre-empt sick leave laws that have been created at the municipal level across New Jersey. New Jersey employees will now accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to a maximum of 40 hours of sick leave over the course of a year. Company policies must be equal to or better than the Act. The Act covers all employees, except those who work for public employers, per diem healthcare employees, and union construction workers. In addition, for temporary employment agencies, temporary employees are covered by the law and entitled to sick leave.
Employers should keep records documenting how many hours a person has worked, and thereby continuously calculate how many sick leave hours they have accrued. The Department of Labor and Workforce Development monitors these records. Finally, leave can be used for activities like diagnosis or treatment for an employee’s own mental or physical condition as well as a family member’s mental or physical condition; attending a school-related meeting; or go to counseling related to sexual violence. A family member is anyone “whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship,” a broad definition.
Equal Pay Act
The Equal Pay Act amended the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, creating a section that covers equal pay. It protects not just women, but also other protected classes. Employers must provide equal pay for “substantially similar work.” If an employer wants to pay someone in identity groups covered by the Act – such as women – less than someone who is not protected – such as a man – then it must show that the differential in pay is not due to membership in the class but instead a bona fide reason, like seniority or merit. The Act also makes it unlawful for employers to request employees to sign a waiver that shortens the statute of limitations – the time period that a claim must be brought – on a claim under the Act. Plaintiffs can recover wages for up to six years.
No matter where they’re employed, employees should be aware of the laws governing their occupation, an employment lawyer would advise. In New Jersey, employers and employees should both be aware of these changes by adopting policies that reflect the new law and, where an employee notices something is amiss, pursuing legal recourse.