Attorneys Explain the Latest News Affecting Businesses and Employees
Recently, Paterson, New Jersey passed a paid sick leave law that will cover 23,000 workers by a 7-0 vote. Other cities with similar laws in the state include Passaic, Newark, East Orange, Jersey City and Irvington.
The Facts Regarding the New Sick Leave Law
- If you work in the private sector, you will gain 1 hour of sick time every thirty hours that you work.
- Large companies of over ten employees are required to offer five sick days a year, in addition to other benefits, such as child care and home health care.
- Companies with less than ten employees must offer their employees at least three sick days.
- Government employees or companies with union contracts are exempt from this sick leave law as they have similar existing plans.
All sick days roll over to the next year, if unused, but they are not allowed to cash in any days they don’t use.
When Will the Other States Offer Sick Leave?
Supporters are strongly encouraging the rest of New Jersey to pass similar sick leave laws, with Montclair and Trenton voting on the matter before the end of the year. They argue that healthier workers are happier and more productive. However, detractors believe these laws will encourage businesses to leave cities where sick leave laws have been in place, despite conflicting statistics.
Can an Employer Force Employees to Work While Sick?
According to The Huffington Post, 90 percent of people last year showed up to work when sick either through choice or by force. An extreme example of an employee working while sick occurred this year at Subway when a sandwich artist was forced to work despite rushing to and from the bathroom due to a stomach virus. During a break she passed out and was taken to hospital. She was soon fired by her manager for insubordination.
Forcing an ill employee to work can infect co-workers, customers and possibly the product the company sells, especially if it is food. Obviously, anyone in the food and hospitality industry should not work when ill to protect public health. Additionally, a sick worker in any industry can slow down productivity and take longer to recover, as the employee cannot rest as needed.
In New Jersey, there are laws which protect genuinely ill employees from being forced to work by their employers. These include,
- The federal Family and Medical Leave Act. Companies are subject to FMLA policies if they have at least 50 employees. Employees are eligible for FMLA benefits after a year of service to their employer, providing they had worked 1,250 hours the previous year, and if the company they work for has 50 employees within an area of 75 miles. Leave for illness is up to 12 weeks.
- Sick leave laws passed by New Jersey cities, such as the one passed recently in Paterson.
- Government employees are protected.
- Government and employees who are part of a union are often granted sick leave.
- While some smaller companies outside of the cities with sick leave laws may not have a policy for sick leave, the Occupational Safety and Health Act requires employers to keep a healthful environment at the workplace. This means sending an obviously sick employee home, even if the sickly employee wishes to work. This federal act can also be invoked to send an employee home if they have a health policy, but have already used all of their sick days.
Consult a business and employment attorney to see if your sick leave policy is in accordance with existing and recent laws. We offer representation to both business owners and employees. To speak with our law firm regarding your situation, contact our business lawyers in Monmouth County at (732) 358-2028.