NJ paid sick leave bill still a work in progress
Six New Jersey municipalities have earned paid sick leave statutes in place and two more are scheduled to vote on the issue in November. Meanwhile in Trenton, legislators and business leaders continue to battle over a bill to create a statewide paid sick leave law.
"My bill allows employees who currently don't earn any paid time off to earn one hour for every 30 hours worked accumulating up to either five days or ten days depending on the size of the business," said Assemblywoman Pam Lampitt (D-Voorhees).
Members of the business community testified against the legislation Thursday. Some said if the state forces them to devote resources to paying people who are not at work, they may have to make it up by cutting somewhere else.
"If you are requiring businesses to pay for a worker who is not at work how do they make up those costs?" asked Stefanie Riehl, assistant vice president of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association.
Lampitt said a statewide policy is needed because there are businesses with offices in cities that are offering paid sick leave to employees in those cities, but not in other Garden State municipalities where they also have offices. Lampitt called that "dyslexic."
Many in the business community are against the measure because they said it would represent another expensive, but unfunded state mandate.
"We have to consider the fact that this policy that is being proposed is not operating by itself. We have a minimum wage increase that just happened. We have the Affordable Care Act. We have higher taxes. All of those things coupled together may very well result in a business deciding that they cannot make it in New Jersey," Riehl said
California and Connecticut have statewide earned leave policies and things are going well in both states, according to Lampitt.
"What we have heard from them is that at least a-third of the industries said they've had improved morale and good percentage of the industries have said that there has not been abuse," Lampitt explained.
The Assembly Labor Committee was scheduled to vote on the bill Thursday, but Lampitt said before the hearing that the legislation would only be discussed so that she could better understand concerns.
"I've been speaking to business leaders. I've been speaking to employees that we want to affect positive change for and we know that there are several amendments out there," Lampitt said.
Most First World countries have some sort of paid sick leave policies.
"A comparison of paid sick leave policies in the 22 wealthiest countries in the world finds that unfortunately the United States is the only country without a paid sick law," Eric Richard, legislative coordinator for the New Jersey State AFL-CIO, testified. "It's time for New Jersey to adapt to the needs of a changing workforce and changing society and do what the federal government hasn't done, which is to pass an earned sick leave bill into law."