Govenor Murphy Signs Paid Sick Leave Bill

default article imageDemocratic Governor of New Jersey Phil Murphy’s Earned Sick Leave bill, A-1827, will become effective on Oct. 29 of this year.

“This is not just about doing what’s right for workers and their families,” he said of paid sick leave at the bill signing in early May. “This is about doing the right thing for our economy and protecting more New Jerseyans’ place in that economy.”

This latest adjustment to state law requires all New Jersey employers to provide paid sick leave to all of their employees.

“Liberals and conservatives will have a different opinion about this, as they do with anything else,” said Joseph Patten, Ph.D., an associate professor of the political science. One of the issues being discussed is the bill’s budget.

Some legislators are also worried that this new law will dramatically change the state budget until it is finalized. “There will be some arguing, some disagreements among ourselves, between the legislature and the executive,” said New Jersey State Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen) during the signing of the law on May 2.

“But we will get together and we will have a budget that appropriately sets the priorities for New Jersey,” she assured.

Those eligible to take paid sick leave from work include full time and part time workers. The new law requires employers to provide one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours that their employee works, with a total annual cap of 40 hours per employee.

Aimee Parks, Assistant Director of Human Resources for Student Employment, is currently working on implementing this new law on campus, “Student employment has gone through several new policy and software implementations and we have a great support network and working relationship with information management, payroll, financial aid, human resources and the general counsel offices,” Parks explained.

New Jersey is the tenth state to implement this policy, following states such as Arizona, California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Although other states have exempted college students working federal work-study jobs from receiving this benefit, New Jersey will allow it.

Celine Powell, a sophomore communication student, working as an international student-mentor on campus, is excited to take advantage of the new benefit.

“I think this will help students on campus because it gives us an opportunity to experience what it would be like in the working world of being sick and getting paid for it. Sickness is a natural thing for humans, so students shouldn’t be penalized for taking a sick leave and they should be paid for it,” said Powell.

Parks is currently in the process of organizing a meeting to address these new changes in student employment, “I am hosting a [Northeast Association of Student Employment Administrators] (NEASEA) meeting with many student employment representatives at Monmouth University in November.  One of our major exchanges will be how other schools in New Jersey are managing and interpreting any new policies,” said Parks.

This NEASEA meeting will be held to inform students on the new law, and how it will affect their employment on campus, something that many student-employees may be unaware of.

Lauren Satmary, a junior interdisciplinary elementary education student, working as a store clerk at the University bookstore was unaware about the paid leave benefit being extended to student-employees; and she believes that it was an appropriate provision for working students.

“I think that it is fair for college students as us students are of all ages, going through different phases in their lives whether achieving their undergraduate, [or] masters, or having to support their own financial needs while going through schooling,” Satmary explained.

“I think it’s important that we are treated like this because we are adults and need an income at some level. Life and sickness happens, and I think it is fair for us to be paid if this occurrence does happen,” said Satmary.

“As a student employee, this will benefit me when I am able to pick up more hours when not in school and will be beneficial if or when a sickness does come upon me,” Satmary added.

Those not eligible to receive paid sick leave in New Jersey include, employees in a collective bargaining agreement through their construction union, per diem health care workers, such as some nurses; and public employees already provided with sick leave in accordance with any other law, rule, or regulation in the state.

In the early 1990s, the Clinton Administration implemented a similar law called the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, which required employers to provide employees with job-protected and unpaid leave for medical and/or family-related reasons.

“The Family Leave Act from the 90s was made to help people take work off for emergencies and protected them from being fired,” said Patten.

Although, there were many restrictions with the law and not every employee could easily use this benefit.

However, Murphy’s bill will makes the paid leave benefit more accessible to workers; once an employee earns enough working hours, s/he may take the paid leave, after providing valid documentation, if an employer requests to verify the reason for taking the sick leave.

Within the new law, valid reasons for using a paid sick day include employees attending their own health needs or that of a family member, defined in the law as “a child, grandchild, sibling, spouse, domestic partner, civil union partner, parent, or grandparent or any other individual related by blood … or the equivalent of a family relationship.”

Additionally, issues resulting from an employee, or his/her family member, being a victim of domestic or sexual violence are also covered under the paid leave benefit; as well as obtaining services from a designated domestic violence agency or other victim services organization.

Relocation,  legal services, including participation in any related legal proceeding, a child’s school-related conference, meeting, function, or other event, are also valid reasons for an employee to take the benefit.

Passing a paid sick leave bill was among Murphy’s many goals in his campaign for governor; his agenda also includes raising New Jersey’s official state minimum wage to $15/hour, something that he says to do as early as the end of this year.

However, Kenneth Mitchell, Ph.D., Chair of the Department of Political Science and Sociology and an associate professor of political science, believes that Murphy is not focusing on broader issues in the state.

“This is not the number one issue New Jersey people care about,” he said. “They care about unaffordable property tax. And [President] Trump’s new tax bill takes effect starting on April 15, 2019, which is what we should be worried about more.”