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Newark passes mandatory paid sick-leave policy

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Newark City Hall
Newark City Hall - ()

The Newark Municipal Council voted to pass its mandatory paid sick-leave ordinance Tuesday, joining Jersey City as one of only two municipalities in the state to do so.

Under the ordinance, full- and part-time employees would be able to earn up to one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked. There is a 40-hour per year cap for businesses with 10 or more employees or those that offer child care, food service or direct care. Businesses with nine or fewer employees will only be required to offer workers at least 24 hours of sick pay per year.

"Paid sick days can help workers recover from an illness and provide care for sick family members as well as prevent more severe illness and use of expensive hospital care," Newark councilman and ordinance sponsor Anibal Ramos, Jr. said in a statement. "Allowing workers to take paid sick days keeps the workplace healthier, reduces turnover and improves productivity."

On Friday, Jersey City saw its sick-leave law go into effect, making it just one of six cities nationally to enact one. Newark will soon become the seventh when its bill is enacted in 120 days.

While business groups have warned against the ordinance and said it will significantly drive up employers' costs and add unwanted layers of regulation, a coalition of small business owners and policy advocates have argued otherwise.

"Jobs with earned sick time are economy-boosting jobs," Corinne Horowitz, business representative for the New Jersey Main Street Alliance, said in a statement. "They're jobs that ensure people have enough money in their pockets to take care of the basics and to support our local economy."

Gordon MacInnes, president of liberal think tank New Jersey Policy Perspective, added Tuesday that he believes the ordinance will provide "economic security" to approximately 38,000 workers in Newark.

"Earned sick leave policies benefit employees, of course, and also their employers—who see increased loyalty and productivity—and surrounding communities—where fewer illnesses are spread among fewer people—all while having no adverse consequence on the economy," MacInnes said in a statement.

But Stefanie Riehl, assistant vice president of employment and labor policy for the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, said that while the ordinance may be well-intentioned, it disregards employers' paid time off policies and elevates their administrative and direct costs.

"Many businesses will not only have to pay wages when a worker takes a paid sick day, but they will also have to pay another worker to take their place," Riehl said. "Countless businesses are already operating on extremely tight budgets and cannot afford to add to their payroll by paying double wages."

Former mayor and now U.S. Sen. Cory Booker took to Twitter Tuesday morning to congratulate the council on passing the ordinance and said that the conversation should now shift to Washington.

"US should follow Newark's lead and pass paid sick leave to improve economic security of workers & their families," Booker tweeted.

The focus now shifts to Trenton where a statewide bill introduced last spring by Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt (D-Voorhees) awaits discussion.

"By extending the right to earn sick days to every single worker in the city, Newark's earned sick days law will be one of the most comprehensive in the nation," Analilia Mejia, executive director of the New Jersey Working Families Alliance, said in a statement. "Lawmakers in Trenton and around the state should take notice."


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