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And Then There Were Two? NJ May Join CT as Only States with Paid Sick Leave Mandates

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The New Jersey Assembly Labor Committee recently voted in favor of a paid sick leave ordinance which, if passed, would make the Garden State the second state with such legislation.  By a 6-3 margin the committee voted to move forward with the proposal which was amended following heated debate to reflect the concerns of small businesses.  Governor Chris Christie who has signaled that he will veto the bill should it pass the Senate.  

The state of New Jersey currently has six cities with paid sick day ordinances: East Orange, Irvington, Jersey City, Newark, Passaic and Paterson.  Voters in Montclair and Trenton will vote on the issue in next week’s general election.  

From Politicker NJ:

The bill (A2354), passed today along party lines by the 10 member committee, would require businesses with 10 or more employees to offer workers a minimum of 72 hours of paid sick leave, while businesses with fewer than 10 employees would be required to let their employees earn 40 hours of sick time — one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours they work (or five days for full-time employees).

Following the committee’s vote, Assemblyman Raj Mukherji (D-33), who along with Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt (D-6) was a primary sponsor of the bill, told PolitickerNJ:

“This fills the gap, because we don’t think that working families in New Jersey should be forced to choose between the economic security and being cared for.  And they shouldn’t be put in a position where they’re showing up to work and getting other people ill as well. It’s not good for the employer, and it’s not good for other employees.”

New Jersey Working Families Alliance Executive Director Analilia Mejia touched on the committee’s ability to balance small business concerns with the interest of working people:

“We understand that new mandates are sometimes difficult for employers or organizations to immediately feel comfortable with, but we applaud your efforts in putting forth a very strong bill that supports workers.”

The amendments to the bill include:

-Defines “benefit year” as the period of 12 consecutive months established by an employer in which an employee shall accrue and use earned sick leave as prescribed in the bill, provided that once the starting date of the benefit year is established by the employer it can not be changed unless the employer petitions the Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development.

-Revises the term “domestic violence” to be “domestic or sexual violence” and clarifies that “domestic or sexual violence” means stalking, any sexually violent offense, or domestic violence.
- Exempts, from the definition of “employee,” construction employees that are under contract pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement.
- Provides that with respect to employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement in effect at the time of the effective date of the bill, no provision of the bill will apply until the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement.

Several right-leaning groups and lobbyists remain opposed to paid sick days, amendments or not.  These groups include the Food Council, Farm Bureau, Business and Industry Association, Americans for Prosperity, and the Chamber of Commerce.  

Connecticut is currently the only state with a paid sick leave mandate.  Voters in Massachusetts will have an opportunity to vote on a similar though weaker law next week.  Assembly Democrats estimate that 1.1 million New  Jerseyans currently work jobs in which they are unable to take sick leave.


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