Bloomfield Township Passes Earned Sick Leave Law: What Employers Need To Know
Overview of Bloomfield Paid Sick Leave Law
In March, 2015 Bloomfield became the ninth city in New Jersey to pass an Earned Sick Leave Ordinance. The township followed six other New Jersey Cities who all passed sick leave laws last year, including Passaic, East Orange, Paterson, Irvington, Trenton and Montclair. Each of the sick leave ordinances are very closely worded compliance guidelines.
The Earned Sick Leave Law or Paid Sick Leave Ordinance is officially called “An Ordinance To Create Chapter 160 Of The Ordinances Of The Township Of Bloomfield To Promote The Overall Health And Safety Of The Residents And Workers Of Bloomfield By Reducing The Spread Of Communicable Disease And Contagion By Requiring A Policy Of Paid Sick Leave For Workers In Bloomfield.” Specifically, the ordinance applies to all private businesses. Bloomfield Township Officers exempted itself and all city employees from the new requirements. The new ordinance took effect in June, 2015.
The ordinance provides paid sick leave to employees of private businesses. Employees can accrue up to either 24 or 40 paid leave hours each year, depending on employee industry and business size. All employees who work in Bloomfield at least 80 hours a year are eligible for sick leave. This includes temporary, seasonal, full and part time employees. There are few exceptions to the new ordinance.
Accrual of Sick Time
Under The Earned Sick Leave Ordinance, Employees earn 1 hour of paid leave for every 30 hours worked. Large business must provide up to 40 hours (5 days) of paid sick leave to all employees. Smaller employers, those with less than 10 employees, must provide up to 24 hours of sick leave to employees.
Certain small employers must still provide up to 40 hours of sick leave. Those employers include businesses with workers who are child-care, home health care, or food service workers. All of those workers are eligible for 40 hours of paid sick leave each year.
There are no sick leave exceptions for small or single person employers. That means that individuals employing a single person, or possibly even families employing a regular baby-sitter would be required to provide paid sick leave to their employee. It’s also important to note that employee count is the determining factor, even if the employees are part time or temporary employees. Employee count is not based on a Full Time Equivalent (FTE) calculation.
|Organizational Size||Hours of Sick Leave Available Each Year|
|10+ employees||40 hours of paid sick leave a year|
|<10 employees||40 hours of unpaid sick leave a year|
|*Industry exception, regardless of business size||Any Child-care, home health care, or food service worker can earn 1 hour for every 30 hours worked up to 40 hours a year.|
Calculating the Business Employee Size
If an organization’s employee count fluctuates, then the employer should average the number of employees that were on payroll in the previous year. Employee count is a flat count and does not include Full Time Equivalent (FTE) calculation. This is different than many other sick leave laws across the United States.
It also means that 2 part time employees who each work 15 hours each week, for a total of 30 hours, would still be counted as 2 employees under the ordinance. Each person counts as an employee, even if they aren’t a full time employee: temporary, part time and full time employees. Although different from other State’s and local ordinances, this follows the trend of local sick leave laws in New Jersey.
Paid Sick Leave Accrual and Carryover
A calendar year in the ordinance is defined as any consecutive 12 month period. This allows businesses to determine what year they will provide employee leave on, a fiscal year, starting with the employee’s hire date, or another 12 month period. Even so, employers should inform employees if the accrual year is different than the standard calendar year of January through December.
Exempt Employees: Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, certain employees are exempt from being paid for overtime hours. These employees must pass a duties test and meet salary threshold. For the purposes of accruing paid sick leave, exempt employees are assumed to work a 40 hour week. If the employee regularly works less than 40 hours a week, then sick leave will accrue based on their regular schedule, but overtime hours for exempt employees do not accrue additional sick leave hours.
Unused sick leave can be carried over to the following year. Up to 40 hours of sick leave can be carried over. But, even if employees carry over unused sick leave, they are still restricted to using up to 40 hours of sick leave each year.
The purpose of allowing sick leave to be carried over is so that employees can utilize sick leave needs at the beginning of the year, prior to accruing additional sick leave for that year. Businesses can choose to avoid rolling sick leave to the next year if they payout unused, accrued sick leave at the end of the year.
Covered Employees under the Paid Sick Leave Ordinance
The Bloomfield Earned Sick Leave Law covers all private employees that work in city limits for 80 hours a year or more. The ordinance doesn’t specifically limit the definition of employees to registered businesses within city limits, which means that individual employers and families also likely fall under the new Paid Sick Leave Laws.
In addition outside employers who have employees working within Bloomfield for 80 hours or more a year would also likely be covered under the ordinance. It is vital that employers, who have employees who operate on an occasional-basis in the township, are aware of the law and that they maintain accurate records of employee time spent inside the city.
This includes temporary and seasonal employees, as well as full time and part time employees.
Employee Exceptions to Earned Sick Time
There are a few exceptions to the Bloomfield Sick Leave Law. City officials, and all other city employees, are excluded from the sick leave law. Most other sick leave laws don’t exclude the governing entity from the law. In addition, all other government entity employees are also exempt from paid sick leave. This is standard practice for sick leave laws.
This means that all other government employees, including Federal, State and Local governments are excluded. All educational employees are exempt. Education employees are defined as an employee of any school district or the board of education.
Finally, all construction union employees are also exempt. Construction Union employees are all industries of reconstruction, demolition, alteration, custom fabrication, or repair work. Additionally those employees must be enrolled or have graduated from a registered apprenticeship program.
Allowable Uses for Earned Sick Leave
The Township of Bloomfield offers several reasons for using Earned Sick Leave. These reasons include illness, injuries, and health conditions. Both physical and mental illness, injury or health conditions are covered under the ordinance. Employees can use sick leave both for themselves, or their family members who are experiencing any of the allowed reasons for sick leave. Employees can seek medical diagnosis’, obtain preventative care, or seek treatment or medical care.
Likewise, circumstances deemed to be a risk to public safety are also covered under earned sick time. If a public official closes the employee’s work or a school or place of care of the employee’s child or family member, then sick time is available.
Similarly, in the event that a public health employee determines that the presence of the employee, child, or family member would jeopardize the health of others because of their exposure to a communicable disease, then the employee can take time off for themselves or to care for the family member. Sick time can be used, even if the employee or the family member hasn’t actually contracted the disease.
Earned sick time has no specific provisions for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking to seek legal redress or to relocate for safety.
- Mental or physical illness: to care for, obtain a diagnosis, obtain treatment, or preventative care.
- If the business, place of care, or school has been closed due to a public health emergency
- If the employee or family member has had exposure to a communicable disease, even if the employee or family member hasn’t contracted the disease.
Family Member Definitions
The Earned Sick Leave Ordinance recognizes child, parent, sibling, partner, grandparent and grandchild relationships. For children, biological, adopted, foster, legal wards, and step relationships are recognized. This includes children of domestic violence or civil unions. It also includes children that the employee stands in loco parentis relationships.
Parental relationships include biological, adopted, foster, legal wards, step parents, and parents who stood in loco parentis relationships to the employee when the employee was a minor. It also includes parents of spouses, domestic partnerships, and civil union partners.
Grandparents and grandparents domestic partner, spouse, and civil union partner are all recognized. Grandchildren and siblings are accepted family relationships, but there are no special provisions for additional legal and other relationships such as foster siblings or siblings in law.
- Child: biological, adopted, step, foster, child of a domestic partner or civil union
- Parent: biological, adopted, step, foster, parent or foster parent of a domestic partner or civil union and parent in law.
- Spouse: domestic partner or civil union partner
- Grandparents: including spouses and partners of grandparents.
Sick Leave Bank and Minimum Usage
Employees in the Township of Bloomfield start accruing paid sick leave on the initial date of employment, but are restricted from using accrued sick leave until the 90th calendar day after employment commences. There is one exception to the 90 day grace period, when an employee is being reinstated with the same employer within 6 months of leaving employment with that employer.
It is vital for employers to maintain records of terminated employees and their accrued, unused sick leave hours. If a previous employee returns to work within 6 months of leaving the employer, all of their previously accrued sick leave must be reinstated back to that employee. That employee will not have to pass through another 90 day waiting period, but is eligible to immediately start using accrued sick leave.
It doesn’t matter if the employee left voluntarily or involuntarily. The law is silent about employees who left their employer during the original 90 day grace period and whether or not they have to complete the original 90 day period. Upon the conclusion of employment, businesses are not required to payout sick leave.
Workers can use sick leave in the smallest of 1 hour increments or in the smallest time increments that the employer’s payroll system accounts for other types of absences or leaves.
Employers are allowed to lend sick leave hours to employees before accrual of hours and are under no liability for choosing to do so. Employers who deny a request to loan sick leave are also under no liability. Sick leave hours transfer to a new owner or successor employer. Accrued hours also transfer with employees who transfer within the same company.
Coordinating with Existing Time Off Policies
The Earned Sick Leave Ordinance allows businesses to continue to use existing time off policies and to have more generous policies than is required by law. In order for a business with an existing paid time off (PTO) policy to maintain compliance, the policy must provide at least the minimum sick leave required by law and must allow employees to use sick leave for the allowable uses defined in the ordinance.
Time off must be awarded at at least the rate of 1 hour for every 30 hours worked or 40 hours a year and employees must be allowed to use sick leave for the reasons stated in the ordinance. HR managers and Payroll Professionals with existing leave policies should examine their guidelines to make sure that all allowable reasons for leave in the sick leave law are also allowed in the company’s policy.
Employers should also make sure that their policies include the notification required by law.
Reasonable Documentation and Notification of Sick Leave Usage
Employers are allowed to request written confirmation from an employee that sick leave was used for acceptable purposes. If the employee takes off more than 3 consecutive days of sick leave, then the employer can seek further documentation of sick leave usage from a health care provider. The documentation cannot disclose the nature of the sick leave.
Businesses can have a policy that requires employees to notify the employer of sick leave usage, but the policy can’t require more than a 7 day notice if sick leave is foreseeable. If sick leave is not foreseeable, then notification can occur as soon as it’s reasonable for the employee to notify the employer.
Under the Sick Leave Law, all employees are protected from any kind of retaliation under the law. This includes exercising their rights to sick leave, or attempting to do so. Employees are also allowed to file complaints, work with the Agency in investigations, inform and discuss employee rights with other employees, and participate in any judicial action relating to the act.
Employees are protected from any sort of threat, discipline, discharge, suspension, demotion, reduction or hours, or any other adverse action. This includes protection for employees who communicate with coworkers about a violation of the law.
Notification and Records
When new employees are hired, employers must provide notification of employee rights to sick leave and their protection against retaliation to the employee. Moreover, employers must post the Employee’s Right to Sick Leave poster, provided by the city, at the workplace in a conspicuous place where employees can access the information.
Notices and posters must be provided in English and in any other first language that 10% or more of the employees speak. Bloomfield provides English and Spanish notices. Notices include the right to sick leave, accrual rate, amount of sick time available for accrual, and the terms of its use.
Additionally notification must include the rights of the employee against retaliation and the right to file a complaint.
Fines and Remedies provided by the Sick Time Ordinance
Businesses are fined $2,000 per violation. Each day is considered to be a new infraction. Additionally, employers are subject to restitution to the employee including restitution, reinstatement, injunctive and declaratory relief. Employees can file with The Department of Health and Human Services, as well as filing a civil suit.
Time and Attendance and Record Retention
All employers affected by the Bloomfield Earned Sick Leave Law must maintain records of hours worked by employees, as well as sick leave accrual and usage. This is important because the ordinance presumes that a violation has occurred if the business doesn’t maintain accurate or consistent records and a complaint is filed.
Ironically, the ordinance fails to define a set number of years for record retention and fails to place a specific statute of limitations for employees to file grievances.
This makes it crucial for business owners and managers to maintain consistent and detailed records. Such records can be difficult to maintain on a manual basis. Business owners should consider an automated timekeeping system as manual time cards are more easily altered and lost.
In addition automatic systems will including employee information, hours worked, sick leave accrual and usage. Businesses should also have written documentation of sick leave requests as well as a written employee handbook. Most local and state ordinances across the country require 3-4 years.
Business owners should consider maintaining records for at least that long. It is more important than ever that companies have an electronic timekeeping system that provides accurate and automatic records. This can help the company to stay compliant with employment laws and to avoid fines and penalties.
Let SwipeClock Help
Businesses who have employees in more than just Bloomfield may have to comply with multiple conflicting City ordinances defining Sick leave accrual and usage laws. Additionally, these businesses have to also comply with Federal Overtime Laws, the Family Leave Medical Act and any other national or local laws that are enacted.
SwipeClock provides a comprehensive array of workforce management and time tracking tools that can help businesses to more easily stay in compliance with local and national laws. Records are effortlessly kept for years and accrual is automatically tracked and reported to employees according to the state and city laws.
Additionally, with geo-timekeeping clocks, businesses can effortlessly track time worked in specific cities to ensure compliance.
Written by Annemaria Duran Last updated Feb 27, 2017
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