In the midst of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) global pandemic, the CDC has recommended that everyone take steps to protect themselves and their communities, including avoiding close contact with others. If you have to take time off work sick, what are your legal rights? If your child’s school is closed or your work is closed, can you stay home with your children?
Find out more about your right to paid sick time in New Jersey below. Please note that you may also have an additional right to emergency paid leave for COVID-19 purposes under federal law, as described in more detail here.
1) What does the New Jersey Paid Sick Time law do?
It gives workers up to 40 hours of sick time a year, which can be used:
- To recover from physical/mental illness or injury;
- To seek medical diagnosis, treatment, or preventative care;
- To care for a family member who is ill or needs medical diagnosis, treatment, or preventative care;
- To address certain needs that may arise if the worker or a family member are victims of domestic violence, a sexual offense, or stalking;
- To attend a meeting or event related to a child’s education or health;
- When the worker’s place of business or the worker’s child’s school or child care provider is closed by order of a public official or because of a state of emergency declared by the Governor due to an epidemic or public health emergency;
- When a health care provider or public health authority determines that presence in the community of the worker or a family member in need of the worker’s care presents a health risk to others;
- If the worker undergoes isolation or quarantine because a healthcare provider or public health authority determines that the worker’s presence in the community presents a public health risk because of suspected exposure to a communicable disease during a state of emergency declared by the Governor or because of the recommendation, direction, or order of a healthcare provider or public health authority; or
- If the worker’s family member undergoes isolation or quarantine because a healthcare provider or public health authority determines that the family member’s presence in the community presents a public health risk because of suspected exposure to a communicable disease during a state of emergency declared by the Governor or because of the recommendation, direction, or order of a healthcare provider or public health authority.
2) Am I covered?
If you work as an employee in New Jersey, you are probably covered, whether you are a full-time, part-time, or temporary worker. However, the law does not cover federal employees, some healthcare professionals, construction workers under contract pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement, and public employees that have paid sick time through other means.
3) How much sick time can I earn?
You earn 1 hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked, up to a maximum of 40 hours per year.
All covered employees are protected against being fired or punished for using or requesting their sick time (including threats, discipline, demotion, reduction in hours, termination, etc.).
4) What if my work or my child’s school or daycare is closed for a health emergency?
You can also use your sick time if your place of business is closed by order of a public official due to a public health emergency or to care for a child whose school or childcare provider has been closed by order of a public official due to a public health emergency.
5) Which of my family members are covered by the law?
Under the law, you can take sick time to care for yourself or a child; spouse; registered domestic partner; civil union partner; parent; parent of a spouse, registered domestic partner, or civil union partner; grandchild; grandparent; sibling; spouse, registered domestic partner, or civil union partner of a parent or grandparent; any other blood relative (such as an aunt, cousin, etc.); or for any other individual whose close association with you is the equivalent of a family relationship (such as a close friend who is like family, a significant other, etc.).
6) What if I already have paid leave or paid time off?
If you already get any paid leave (vacation, paid time off, etc.) that you can use as sick time and it’s at least the same amount you would earn under this law, the law does not give you any additional paid time off.
7) When can I begin using my sick time?
You start earning sick time immediately but cannot use it until 120 days after the start of your employment.
8) Do I need a doctor’s note?
Only after 3 consecutive days of absence (and the note does not have to specify your illness).
All covered workers are protected against being fired or punished for using or requesting sick or safe time. If you have a problem—or want more information—call A Better Balance’s free legal helpline at 1-833-NEED-ABB.
The Department of Labor and Workforce Development is in charge of enforcing this law.
Please note that this fact sheet does not represent an exhaustive overview of the paid sick time law described, and it does not constitute legal advice. It is possible that additional provisions not described in this fact sheet may apply to a worker’s specific circumstances or category of employment.
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