N.J. Democrats to push for paid sick time

Posted: June 17, 2014

TRENTON - New Jersey Democrats and labor activists are pushing to require private employers to provide paid leave for workers who are sick or who need to attend to loved ones with an illness.

About 38 percent of the state's private-sector workforce, or 1.2 million employees, do not have access to earned sick leave, according to a 2013 study by the Rutgers Center for Women and Work.

Democrats say that diminishes New Jersey's quality of life, but Republicans and business groups argue that new government regulations would stifle productivity and growth.

On Monday, top legislative and labor leaders say they will begin a campaign in Trenton to promote a bill that would mandate paid sick leave. Government employees already have the benefit.

"Look at cities like New York and San Francisco," said Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt (D., Camden), a sponsor of the bill. Both cities require paid sick leave.

"I work in Philadelphia. I know Mayor Nutter is rethinking his position on sick time to look at quality of life," she said.

Nutter on Thursday said businesses in Philadelphia should give workers paid sick days. Newark and Jersey City recently enacted paid sick leave laws, and Connecticut has a statewide law.

Under Lampitt's bill - which isn't likely to advance until the next fiscal year - employees could use leave to tend to their own illness or injury or to a relative's.

Employees would accrue one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked, starting 90 days after being hired. While on leave, they would be compensated at their regular rate.

For businesses with fewer than 10 employees, workers could earn up to 40 hours. For businesses with 10 or more employees, workers could earn up to 72 hours.

(The rules would serve as minimum standards that would not interfere with employer policies or collective-bargaining agreements that set higher ones.)

Employees could carry over hours from one year to the next but would not be entitled to payouts for unused sick leave when they retire, unless collective-bargaining agreements hold otherwise.

Payouts in the public sector have hit cash-strapped municipalities particularly hard, and Republicans have introduced legislation that would end the practice.

Business groups warn that Lampitt's bill could make New Jersey less competitive.

"When we look at these things, we look at them as a layering of mandates," said David Brogan, first vice president of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, which represents 21,000 companies in the state.

He cited a recent increase in the state minimum wage and a law granting employees paid family leave to care for seriously ill family members as a combination of excessive regulations.

"This is another mandate that's coming down on business," Brogan said. "These costs have to come from somewhere."

Paid sick leave has broad support in the Garden State: 83 percent of residents surveyed for the Rutgers study favored it.

The report found that Latino, low-income, and younger workers were less likely to have access to paid sick leave.




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