The New Jersey Business & Industry Association, New Jersey State Chamber of Commerce, New Jersey Food Council, New Jersey Restaurant Association, New Jersey Retail Merchants Association and National Federation of Independent Businesses have filed a lawsuit against the city of Trenton seeking to stop the city from implementing its new paid sick leave law.
The challenged ordinance would force employers to allow their employees to earn one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked. Employees at businesses with 10 or more employees could earn up to five sick days per year, while employees at businesses with fewer than 10 employees could earn three paid sick days in a year.
The law was overwhelmingly approved by voters in a November referendum, making Trenton is one of eight municipalities in New Jersey with a local paid sick leave ordinance. The others are Jersey City, Newark, Passaic, East Orange, Paterson, Irvington and Montclair.
All of the organizations involved in the lawsuit have offices located in Trenton and would thus be directly impacted by the law they are challenging.
The complaint, which was filed in the Mercer County Superior Court, seeks a ruling that the ordinance is unenforceable and unconstitutional, and requests an injunction preventing the ordinance from going into effect on March 4.
The business organizations argue:
- The ordinance is a violation of the police powers granted to municipalities. According to the complaint, paid sick time is not a matter of local concern relevant only to those who live in Trenton, but is rather a matter of general and statewide significance, particularly since this ordinance clearly impacts employers that have workforces spanning multiple municipalities.
- State law preempts the ordinance. The state of New Jersey has already addressed paid sick leave in three separate ways. It is addressed in the New Jersey Temporary Disability Benefits Act, the New Jersey Family Leave Insurance Law provision of the NJTDBA, and the New Jersey Family Leave Act. As such, the complaint states that the ordinance is preempted because the state has occupied the field of paid sick leave through its current statutes.
- The ordinance is a de facto raise of the minimum wage, which is preempted by state law.
- The ordinance violates both the United States and New Jersey Constitutions by infringing on the substantive due process and equal protection rights of the plaintiffs, being unconstitutionally vague, and impairing the contractual rights of employers and employees.