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N.J. lawmakers launch statewide paid sick-leave campaign

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Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt speaking is sponsoring the statewide paid sick-leave bill in the Assembly.
Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt speaking is sponsoring the statewide paid sick-leave bill in the Assembly. - (ANDREW GEORGE)

With mandatory paid sick-leave policies recently put in place in New Jersey’s two largest cities, lawmakers and advocates are now calling for a statewide measure.

State Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck) and Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt (D-Voorhees) joined members of the NJ Time to Care Coalition Tuesday in Trenton to announce their sponsorship of identical bills in both houses of the Legislature mandating that full- and part-time workers be allowed to earn one hour of paid sick-leave for every 30 hours worked.

Under the bills, which were reintroduced earlier this year, there is a 40-hour per year cap for businesses with nine or fewer employees and a 72-hour per year cap for businesses with 10 or more workers. Unless an employer decides to begin offering paid sick days at an earlier date, workers may begin accruing sick time 90 days after he or she was hired.

“Workers who need time off to care for themselves or a family member should not be forced to make the unfair choice between their health and a paycheck,” Weinberg said. “Guaranteeing a minimum standard of earned sick leave for all workers is the compassionate and the sensible thing to do for our state. It will create a healthier and safer work environment for employees, but also will protect the health of the public.”

Businesses, Weinberg added, “will benefit from these improved conditions.”

“This bill is the result of a collaboration between our office, advocates and the business community,” Lampitt said. “It’s the right thing to do for workers, but it will also improve public health. Recent research shows that the policy will also have a positive effect on businesses and the economy.”

Jersey City led the push at the municipal level, passing a similar ordinance last year that went into effect in January. Newark then followed with its own version of the policy.

“Victories for earned sick days in Jersey City and Newark have put New Jersey at the forefront of this nationwide fight for economic security,” New Jersey Citizen Action executive director and coalition member Phyllis Salowe-Kaye said. “Now advocates and elected officials are building on that momentum to enact earned sick days statewide.”

Having passed mandatory paid sick-leave legislation in 2011, Connecticut remains the only state to have done so. At the municipal level, however, policies are in place for cities nationwide including San Francisco, Washington, D.C., New York and Seattle.

The coalition claims that if passed, New Jersey’s bill would be stronger than Connecticut’s because it would provide paid sick time regardless of the size of certain businesses.

According to NJ Working Families Alliance executive director and coalition member Analilia Mejia, there are currently some 1.1 million workers in New Jersey who are unable to earn sick days.

“Denying workers paid sick days is inhumane and the right to earn paid sick days should be extended to every single worker in New Jersey,” Mejia said.

Statewide business groups have been vocal in their opposition to the municipal ordinances in Jersey City and Newark, claiming their regulatory nature will eventually hurt small businesses.

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Andrew George

Andrew George

Andrew George covers the Statehouse from NJBIZ's Trenton bureau. Born and raised in N.J., Andrew has also spent time as a reporter in D.C., Texas and Pa. His email is andrewg@njbiz.com and he is @AndrGeorge on Twitter.

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