Bloomfield, New Jersey became the ninth city in the state and 18th city in the country to pass a paid sick leave law on Monday evening.
The ordinance, which passed unanimously, will require employers to let their workers earn an hour of sick leave for every 30 hours they work, up to five days a year for those who have 10 or more employees and three for those with fewer. Those who work in jobs that have direct contact with the public, however, such as food service or daycare workers, would get five days regardless of their employer’s size. Workers can use the days to care for themselves or sick family members. The Center for Women and Work at Rutgers estimates that 8,600 workers who didn’t previously have leave will be covered.
New Jersey has been the center of a particularly concerted effort by activists to pass paid sick leave legislation; six other New Jersey cities passed bills last year. But those cities are also part of increased momentum over the last year to pass a flurry of these bills at the state and city level. Voters in Chicago also overwhelmingly passed a referendum recently in support of paid sick leave.
Outside of those cities and states, however, Americans have no guarantee of a paid day off if they get sick. The United States is the only developed country without a national requirement, which leaves about 40 percent of workers without access to the benefit.
President Barack Obama has taken note of this issue and earlier in the year called for a national paid sick leave bill in his State of the Union address. Democrats in Congress took him up on it and re-introduced legislation in February. But while that bill stalls, Obama has also called on local governments to pass their own laws. Bloomfield is the third place to heed that call this year.
Some states have moved in the opposite direction, however, as 10 have passed preemption laws that bar cities and localities from enacting paid sick days. In New Jersey, six business groups filed a complaint seeking to invalidate Trenton’s law that was passed by voters last year. Critics of paid sick leave requirements warn that they will hurt businesses and cost jobs. But the vast majority of employers in places that have laws on the books have since come to support them. Meanwhile, they haven’t hurt local economies and many cities have outperformed surrounding areas after their laws were enacted.