Monday, September 22, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

New Jersey Assembly speaker backs paid sick leave

Speaker Vincent Prieto (D., Hudson) said the Assembly would begin considering paid sick leave in September. (Photo by Vincent Prieto´s Facebook page)
Speaker Vincent Prieto (D., Hudson) said the Assembly would begin considering paid sick leave in September. (Photo by Vincent Prieto's Facebook page)
TRENTON - A key New Jersey lawmaker said Wednesday that a statewide paid-sick-leave requirement for employers was a priority for this year, setting up a likely battle between business and labor groups.

Speaker Vincent Prieto (D., Hudson) said the Assembly would begin considering paid sick leave in September.

Since last year, the state's two largest cities - Newark and Jersey City - have adopted so-called earned sick leave requirements.

This week, similar measures were introduced through a proposed ordinance in East Orange and in proposed ballot measures in five other cities. Only Connecticut has a statewide requirement for sick leave and just a handful of cities across the country do.

In an interview Wednesday, Prieto said having laws vary by community was a reason for a unified state law.

He said about 1.1 million workers in the state do not have paid sick time off.

"What are their options? Coming to work sick, or not going to work and not being paid and not being able to put food on the table?" Prieto said.

He called the bill under consideration a work in progress.

The measure would give one hour of paid leave time to employees for every 30 hours they work. For a full-time employee, that comes out to around eight sick days a year.

Stefanie Riehl, an assistant vice president of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, said her group would push against the bill.

She said the goal of sick time for all workers was laudable but would be costly for employers. She said about three-fourths of the state's workers already have paid leave. Many of the others are seasonal workers or work in retail or restaurants. She said in many businesses, requiring sick leave would mean the owners would have to pay both the worker who is off and a replacement brought in.

Currently, she said, workers in those sorts of jobs usually can trade shifts in ways that work for them. She also said a requirement that workers taking leave would not have to give advance notice would be bad for managers. Further, she said, working out the pay for workers in restaurants who receive tips would be difficult.

"The legislation is so prescriptive," she said.

Geoff Mulvihill Associated Press
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