This Thursday, December 17, the New Jersey Senate has scheduled a vote on S785, which would require all businesses in the state to offer their employees paid sick leave. NJCJI has joined a slew of pro-business groups opposing this legislation, which is being sponsored by Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D – Teaneck). While other organizations focus on the broader implications this bill will have on the state’s economy (see information on this from NJBIA), NJCJI is focused on how the highly prescriptive structure of the bill, compounded by the incentivized litigation enforcement mechanism, would deprive employers of the necessary flexibility to manage their business and respond to suspected abuse.
Under this legislation, an employer who does almost anything related to paid sick leave, including simply informing any person about the availability of paid sick leave, gets a 90 day window during which any adverse employment action they take is presumed to be retaliatory. If an employee files suit during that 90 day window, the burden is on the employer to prove in court that the action was unrelated to the employees’ sick leave-related activity. It is not even clear that reassignments to meet business demands would be lawful under this legislation, since “retaliatory action” is defined to include even an unfavorable work assignments. Under these conditions, employers would have difficulty effectively managing their employees without generating a lawsuit.
The expansive scope of potential liability is compounded by the severe penalties that attach to violations of this legislation. Plaintiffs are entitled to actual damages plus an equal amount of punitive damages, plus attorney fees and court costs. The high cost of litigation, and the financial risk of losing the case, mean many claims would settle immediately, regardless of their merit. These costs are all passed on to consumers.
Please contact your State Senator TODAY and tell them why you oppose the bill as currently drafted.
If you have any questions about this legislation, please contact Alida Kass, NJCJI’s Chief Counsel.