In New Jersey under an existing employment regulation, state employees can donate unused time off to a co-worker who has exhausted his/her own allotted leave bank due to a catastrophic illness or injury that has kept them from returning to work. As reported on the website, NJSpotlight.com, State lawmakers want to see this longstanding policy become codified as a matter of law.
Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, the legislation’s primary sponsor, has been trying for years to convert the state’s donated-leave policy into law. However now under the new Democratic gubernatorial regime the legislation seems to have more momentum as the Democrats who control the Legislature have already found common ground with Governor Phil Murphy making state labor laws more progressive.
The State’s existing donated-leave policy was established by the Civil Service Commission many years ago. Under this regulation an employee is eligible to receive donated leave from a co-worker if they’ve already exhausted all of their accrued sick and vacation time and administrative leave time off. While the rule applies only to state-government workers, a donated-leave program can also be established at the local level if government leaders receive permission from the commission, according to the employment regulation. Some local municipal and county collective negotiations units have been successful in convincing management in seeking this approval through the collective negotiations process while others have not.
Under the proposed legislation, workers would have to have at least one year of continuous service with the state government to be eligible to receive donated leave. Additional qualifications to be eligible for a leave donation include suffering from a catastrophic health condition or injury; providing long-term care to a family member suffering from a catastrophic health condition or injury; or requiring an extended absence due to the donation of an organ.
The proposed program would benefit workers at all levels of government, i.e. rank-and-file employees, senior executives, and those in unclassified positions. Furthermore, there appears to be no restrictions regarding which groups of employees can share banked time off with each other, or that major differences in pay levels would prevent a leave donation from occurring.
According to the proposed legislation, an employee could receive up to 260 donated sick or vacation days in total, but no more than 30 days from a single co-worker. In addition, workers making a leave donation must have at least 20 days of accrued sick leave and 12 days of accrued vacation days left on their own leave bank after making a donation. Furthermore, those workers who have been disciplined for lateness or chronic absenteeism within two years of seeking a leave donation would not be eligible to donate.
Finally, in addition to making the donated-leave policy a matter of law, the proposed legislation would also change the rules related to leave that can be donated to a pregnant co-worker to make it easier for women to become eligible for a donation. Currently, a pregnant co-worker is not eligible to receive donated leave unless she is required to be out of work for at least 60 days. The bill would reduce the minimum amount of time needed to qualify for a donation to 30 days.
While this law will not change the existing donated leave program significantly, it will protect the program from possibly being abolished by a Civil Service Commission that may find it important to curtail public employee benefits in the State of New Jersey. We will keep our eye on this bill to see if it receives legislative approval and then the final signature of Governor Murphy.