POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

Statewide earned sick days legislation gets a boost

BY Briana Vannozzi, Correspondent |

“I need people to come in at their best every day. If they come in sick because they need the money, it’s bad for my business,” said small business owner Tony Sandkamp.

It’s the argument lawmakers have been hearing for years. Proponents of a paid sick leave mandate were encouraged Monday by the latest iteration of a statewide bill, allowing workers to accrue one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked.

“Over 1 million people in the state of New Jersey do not have paid sick time today. There’s a process it has to go through in terms of creating a piece of legislation that could land on the governor’s desk that he’ll sign,” said bill sponsor, Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt.

In other words, new carve outs, or amendments added to get the necessary votes in the Assembly. Items like lowering the maximum amount of hours an employee can earn from 72 to 40. And while advocates are overall in favor, they’re not without reservation.

“We’d like to see more than five days a year for the average worker in New Jersey. We’ve looked at the research and we know people need more than that,” said Dena Mottola Jaborska, associate director of New Jersey Citizen Action.

“There’s no successorship language in the bill, which means when they change from one contractor to another contractor, and the workers stay, they lose all their benefits for no reason whatever days they’ve accumulated. And third, because the employers can still take those days out of their vacation time,” said Kevin Brown, state director for 32BJ SEIU.

The new language also excludes per diem employees, targeted at high paid, per diem nurses and health care professionals. New Jersey Working Families Executive Director Analilia Mejia says it’s a carve-out that could unfairly target low-paid workers.

“Temporary workers would come in to a hospital or some other kind of workplace setting and fill-in for existing staff, and our question is, would those individuals qualify as excludable?” asked Mejia.

The state’s business community, once staunchly against the measure, is now working with the bill’s sponsor, Lampitt, on the rewrite.

“We are encouraged that Assemblywoman Lampitt has agreed to provide a full pre-emption provision and amend the number of paid sick leave hours to 40, but we still have concerns regarding the impact to small employers,” said NJBIA President and CEO Michele Siekerka in a statement on Monday.

“Employers want to do the right thing. They want to provide benefits and time off to their employees. It is the mandate on top of mandate on that side of the ledger that continues to be the challenge to the employer,” said Michael Egenton, executive vice-president for government relations at the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce.

The bill passed, as expected, along party lines. Advocates are now waiting for a more robust version to come out of the Senate and are optimistic this could be the year to get it signed.