July 1st, is a significant day for millions of workers who will begin enjoying the protections of recently enacted workplace leave laws around the country. For low-wage workers who currently do not have a single paid sick day, these laws will ensure they no longer have to worry that catching a cold or taking a sick child to the doctor could mean not making rent or even losing their job.
Last week, in a tremendous victory many years in the making, the New Jersey Senate passed the Earned Sick and Safe Days Act. Once it is signed by the Governor, New Jersey will be the tenth state in the U.S. to guarantee workers the right to paid sick time!
The law will allow New Jersey workers to earn up to 40 hours of paid sick time per year. Nearly all employers in New Jersey will be subject to the law, regardless of size. Workers will be able to use earned sick time to take care of themselves or a family member when ill or in need of preventative care. “Family member” is defined broadly to include chosen family members—that is, individuals whose “close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship,” absent a biological or legal relationship. Workers will also be able to use earned sick time for “safe time” purposes to address needs related to domestic or sexual violence, and to attend meetings requested or required by their child’s school, or meetings concerning care provided to their children. The law will go into effect 180 days after it is enacted.
The Earned Sick and Safe Days Act is the fruition of years of advocacy work that A Better Balance has been part of starting with the first paid sick time bill that passed in the state in 2013, in Jersey City, followed by bills in eleven more New Jersey localities, as part of a long-term strategy to pass a statewide paid sick time law. We provided legal support to each of these campaigns, from bill drafting to testifying before legislators to helping with enforcement.