A new state law enacted Wednesday guarantees nearly all workers in New Jersey can now earn five sick days a year – one hour off for every 30 hours worked.

It takes effect Oct. 29, though workers who newly receive the benefit won’t be able to use their accrued sick leave until nearly March, as the law includes a 120-day waiting period for new workers.

Gov. Phil Murphy said the paid sick leave law isn’t just about supporting workers but will also help the state’s economy by boosting productivity.

“This is the right thing to do. But let there be no doubt, I’ve also got a cold-blooded part of me, as well,” Murphy said. “This is the smart thing to do.”

The law overrides local ordinances that are on the books in 13 cities and towns in the state.

Business groups say lawmakers need to stop imposing so many mandates, though they welcomed changes made to the original proposal, which called for a guarantee of nine sick days and would have required employers to pay for their workers’ out-of-pocket costs for any doctors’ notes required.

“While we have historically opposed this mandate, NJBIA appreciates these important amendments, the deliberation taken by the bills' sponsors to understand its impacts on businesses and for working in the spirit of compromise, while achieving their overall goal,” said New Jersey Business and Industry Association president and chief executive officer Michele Siekerka.

Around 1.2 million New Jersey workers don’t currently have paid sick days – most of them low-income, holding food service, child and elder care and retail jobs.

“Today is when our law finally states, loud and clear: You are valued,” Murphy said.

Raquel Soto, of Paterson, says she got fired from a job she’d held at a shelter for 13 years for taking time off to care for a sick child.

“I’ve been put in a predicament that I had to choose to get paid or take care of my sick children. And that should not be for any woman, for any parent, for anyone,” Soto said.

The new law allows for days off to care for sick family members and protects against retaliation.

Judith Schmidt, chief executive officer of the New Jersey State Nurses Association, said it will particularly help part-time workers.

“So now we will be able to offer at least a few days of sick time during the year that those workers can take time off and not lose the pay,” Schmidt said. “Again, most of our workers in those situations are lower-income workers.”

Schmidt and officials from other nurses’ groups were prominent at Wednesday’s bill signing at the Trenton War Memorial, saying the new law will help during future flu outbreaks.

“It will make sure that people don’t feel that they have to go to work sick or send their kids to school sick,” said Dena Mottola Jaborska, associate director of New Jersey Citizen Action. “Two places, the workplace and schools, where illness can quickly spread. So it’s a very important public health measure.”


New Jersey: Decoded cuts through the cruft and gets to what matters in New Jersey news and politics. Follow on Facebook and Twitter.


Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5 and the editor of New Jersey: Decoded. Follow @NJDecoded on Twitter and Facebook. Contact him at michael.symons@townsquaremedia.com

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