TRENTON – In the midst of one of the harshest winters New Jersey has recently seen, Senator Peter J. Barnes III introduced legislation that would protect New Jersey workers who are unable to make it into work due to a declared state of emergency.
“When the state or a municipality declares a state of emergency it is often because weather conditions are so terrible, it is simply too unsafe to venture out on the roadways,” said Senator Barnes, D-Middlesex. “We have recently seen severe snow storms that have left New Jersey roadways slick and dangerous and in years past, storms such as Hurricanes Irene and Sandy have left communities completely incapacitated. Yet, many workers feel compelled to head out in bad weather so they are not punished by their employers. New Jerseyans should be able to make an objective decision to drive during a storm that reflects their own and their family’s safety rather than a fear of retribution by an employer or a loss of sick or vacation time.”
The bill would protect New Jersey employees from adverse actions by their employer if they are unable to make it to work due to a declared state of emergency. The legislation would prevent employers from requiring employees to use any sick, vacation, personal or other leave – paid or unpaid – during a state of emergency.
According to the bill, a state of emergency is a natural or man-made disaster or emergency in which a state of emergency is declared by the Governor or by a municipal emergency management coordinator. The Governor declares a state of emergency when he believes that a disaster will be severe enough to require state aid to supplement local resources in preventing or alleviating damages, loss, hardship or suffering.
The bill exempts employees of public safety agencies such as police or fire departments or emergency medical services.
An employer who violates the provisions of the bill would be subject to a penalty of up to $5,000 for the first offense and $10,000 for each additional offense.
The bill has been referenced to the Senate Labor Committee.