Earned Sick Leave FAQ

Many small businesses have contacted Councilwoman Osborne’s office about the new earned sick legislation.  Check out some common FAQs here and let us know if you have any additional questions.

  • Who is covered?

    All employees who work for a company that does business in Jersey City and has worked for that company for at least 90 days may earn sick leave.

    • Employees who work for a business that employs 10 or more employees will receive the leave as paid
    • Employees who work for a business that employs 9 or fewer employees will receive the leave as non-paid (but they cannot be fired for taking the leave)
  • How much time can employees earn each year?

    Employees can accrue a maximum of 5 days per year.  However, they do not get all 5 days up front.  Employees must “earn” the sick leave.  They earn 1 hour of leave for every 30 hours worked.

  • Can the mandated sick time be swapped for vacation time?
    • If the employer offers vacation time that equates to how much the employee could accrue under sick time, they do not have to offer paid sick time.  So, if a restaurant gave vacation time of an hour for every 30 hours worked, they would need to offer no paid sick leave.  If an employer offered only an hour of vacation for every 60 hours worked, they would need to offer an hour of paid sick leave for every 60 hours worked too so the employee could have a total of up to 5 paid days off (which would be for a full time employee.)
    • If an employer does not offer vacation time and chooses to offer paid sick time, the employee may not use the paid sick time for vacation.
  • Can employees carryover sick days?

    While employees can carryover sick days, they can never have more than 5 days in the bank.  This is meant to protect employees during the months of January and February.  For example, if an employee had 4 unused sick days at the end of December they would kick off the New Year with 4 sick days.  During the rest of the year they could only accrue an additional 8 hours of sick leave.

  • Can employees cash out unused sick days?

    No.  If an employee has not used his or her sick days, they are not entitled to receive payment for these days when they leave the company.

  • Are seasonal workers covered?

    The bill includes several protections that will exempt most seasonal workers. A worker must wait 90 days before using any sick time.  Furthermore, if a seasonal worker is not rehired within six months they cannot use the days they accumulated earlier in the year.

  • When does the law go into effect?

    The law went into effect on January 24th, 2014.

  • Won't most employees use all of their days even if they aren't sick?

    This is unlikely.  Studies have shown that in cities where this has been implemented, employees take an average of 2.2 sick days per year.  (http://www.iwpr.org/publications/pubs/valuing-good-health-in-new-york-city-the-costs-and-benefits-of-paid)

  • What happens if a business does not follow the Ordinance? Are there penalties? And if there are, what are they?

    Business who do not follow the ordinance are subject to penalties as follows:

    • City fine of up to $2,000 per instance (which is the maximum city fine.)
    • If an employee feels he/she did not get paid sick time and felt that they deserved it the employee has two courses of action:
      • Employee can issue a complaint with HHS who will try to mediate it ahead of any fine.  If it can’t be mediated they will refer it to municipal court.
      • Employee can file directly with a municipal court and court will adjudicate it.
  • How will Jersey City learn lessons and improve this legislation after it is implemented?

    Jersey City, in conjunction with Rutgers University, will be studying the impact of the law after 1 year.  In addition, Councilwoman Osborne spoke with leaders in San Francisco and New York City to discuss what lessons they had in implementing the law.  And although those programs have been largely successful (http://www.iwpr.org/publications/pubs/San-Fran-PSD), she believes that the legislation passed in Jersey City will be even stronger after learning lessons from those who have chartered the way.