This week, a town in New Jersey passed a law requiring businesses to offer all employees paid sick leave, becoming the 13th place in the state to do so and the 34th in the country.
Morristown workers at companies with 10 or more employees will be able to take up to five days a year, while those with fewer will get three days. All employees, both full time and part time, will be eligible. An exception was made for those who work in food service, childcare, and eldercare positions, who will get five days no matter how big their employers are to protect public health.
With its passage, there are now 29 cities and five states across the country that require businesses to offer employees a paid day off if they or their families get sick, even as there is no national requirement to do so.
Activists in New Jersey had originally planned to have Morristown residents vote on paid sick leave through their November ballot, but the city council decided to take action ahead of time on its own.
New Jersey has become a powerhouse of paid sick leave laws, passing seven in 2014 alone. Those behind the movement are hoping to get even more in place before the end of the year.
“Our aim is to move 1–2 more towns this year, and ultimately bring NJ to 15 municipal ordinances before the close of the year,” Analilia Mejia, executive director of New Jersey Working Families, said in an email.
The state’s paid sick days movement was launched shortly after it passed the country’s second paid family leave program. (There are now four states that have paid family leave.) Then New York City, the country’s largest, managed to pass paid sick days in 2013, and activists in New Jersey decided to focus on going city by city, especially since Gov. Chris Christie (R) has stood staunchly in opposition to all sick leave legislation, including something statewide.
But dozens of laws across the country, most of them over the last three years, have now been put into effect. They campaigns have even moved beyond coastal cities to stake claims in the midwest. They’re already having an impact: the share of Americans who get paid sick leave from their employers just reached an all-time high, climbing 7 percentage points over the last decade in which sick leave laws started to take root.
And while Congress still hasn’t acted on bills that have been introduced to require all American companies to offer paid sick leave, these cities and states have proven that doing so doesn’t harm businesses or jobs. Employers in Connecticut, Jersey City, New York City, and Washington, D.C. say the laws haven’t been costly or difficult to implement. Job growth remained strong in Connecticut and San Francisco after the laws were passed, and was actually stronger in Seattle.