Montclair To Vote On Mandatory Sick Leave Ordinance

mandatory sick leave ordinnce

In November Montclair will join Trenton to vote on a ballot question to adopt an ordinance which would require Montclair private-sector employers to allow their employees who work in the Township to accrue paid sick leave. In August, the Township Council  had the opportunity to enact the ordinance without it going to the ballot, but elected to leave the decision to the voters after receiving a petition with 1,106 signatures in favor.

Freeholder Brendan Gill, Deputy Mayor Robert Russo, and 3rd Ward Councilman Sean Spiller have been vocal supporters of the ordinance. On the other side of the debate, Upper Montclair Business Association President Diane Esty has questioned the impact on small business owners and how it could be enforced by the township.

The ballot question and explanation reads as follows:


Shall the voters of the Township of Montclair adopt an ordinance which would require Montclair private-sector employers to allow their employees who work in the Township of Montclair to accrue paid sick leave at a rate of one hour of paid sick time for each 30 hours worked; employees who provide food services, child care, or home health care, or who work for employers with ten or more employees would be entitled up to 40 hours of paid sick leave each year, and other private-sector employees wouldbe entitled up to 24 hours of paid sick leave each year?


The purpose of the Ordinance is to ensure that workers h ave the ability to address their own health needs and the needs of their family members; to diminish the public cost of health care; to protect the health of the public by reducing the risk of and spread of contagious diseases; to safeguard the public welfare, health, safety and prosperity of the people of Montclair; and to protect residents and workers in the Township of Montclair from losing their jobs or facing workplace discipline as a result of illness and the use of sick time to care for themselves or their family members.

How will you vote — Yay or Nay? Tell us in comments.



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  1. Nay. The actual language in the ordinance is way more sweeping and punitive than the explanatory statement (written by the political groups that drafted the ordinance) would lead you to believe.

    Fail to pay your babysitter or nanny for a sick day? You can be fined up to $2,000 by the Town. Failed to pay for five days? Up to $2,000 per violation, so potentially $10,000 in total. I’m glad that the Working Families Party is behind an ordinance that essentially threatens my working family with a $10,000 fine if we don’t pay our nanny for sick leave.

    Why the drafters of this ordinance deliberately chose to lump parents who employ a babysitter in with Fortune 500 companies that have employees in town is beyond comprehension.

  2. Wait…what…people with nanny’s DON’T give them paid sick leave? That’s just wrong.

    Voting YEA on this one. Thanks for pointing that out vanb!

  3. Glad you are so flippant about the actual impact of the ordinance.

    We pay our babysitter, but should I be subject to a $2,000 fine because I ask for a doctor’s note? Totally absurd.

  4. Two things are worth pointing out, just so everyone knows what they are voting for. (Baristanet, you really should get the full ordinance from the Clerk’s Office and post it — the proposal, which mirrors Newark’s new law, is more complicated than the short ballot description.)

    First, the mandatory sick time kicks in for employees who work more than just 80 total hours in a year — an average of less than two hours a week of employment.

    Second, although it will be up to judges to decide what the law means, it is drafted to give employees a right to sue employers directly in Municipal Court for alleged violations.

    I support the concept of this proposal, but I’d rather see the Council design something more balanced than see this particular proposal become law.

    My personal opinion only.

  5. Thank you jeffjacobson. Excellent points. I was on the fence for all the wrong reasons.
    Agree. Right concept. Wrong execution.

  6. NAY NAY NAY! while it sounds nice in concept I don’t think the township has the right to govern benefits of private businesses. I don’t think part-time employees are necessarily entitled to benefits – and I say this as a person who currently works part-time.
    Furthermore, a recent Mtc Times editorial claimed that 40% of Montclair workers do not get paid sick leave but failed to back up that claim with any data of where that percentage # came from. It also claimed that Jersey City has this policy and is experiencing great economic growth. Montclair is NOT Jersey City and I find the comparison silly.

  7. I am amazed by Montclair’s ability to attract an endless parade of inept small business owners over the past couple of decades. The revolving door of shops and restaurants opening, closing in a year or two and then re-opening under the ownership of another doomed wannabe entrepreneur is staggering. How does this constant stream of losers all land in our fair burgh?

    Or perhaps the climate for small business in Montclair is not as peachy as we would like to think. Just saying…

  8. I thought I saw something about employers with under 8 or 9 employees are exempt. That would cover nannies and many small business owners, yes?

  9. 9 or less employees means up to three unpaid sick days.

    However, a babysitter falls in the “child care” category, no exemption for families with a single babysitter, and rather than unpaid, five paid sick days (no sick note required.)

    Caterwaiting- Please do ask your local shop owner if they are a wannabe or a real business owner. They would love that type of discourse.

  10. Montclair’s ordinance parallels Newark’s, as I understand things. An official Q&A about the Newark ordinance is here:
    The full text of the Newark law is here:

    Small employers, including households, are NOT exempt. As stated above, small employers have to provide up to 24 hours of sick time, with employees working 80 hours or more per year earning one sick hour for every 30 hours of work.

  11. And to be clear, the ordinance was drafted with absolutely no input from any elected legislative body. It was drafted by political activist groups, dumped on the Montclair Town Council at the 11th hour, and takes advantage of a loophole that allows ordinances like this to go on the ballot.

    Worse yet, it prevents our elected town council from amending it in any way for three years. So any sensible change that would correct any unintended (or intended) bad consequence cannot be implemented for three years.

    This is not indicative of a representative government and I for one don’t appreciate the attempt to sneak this in under the nose of the voters.

  12. So it sounds like a nanny who was too sick to come to work would be allowed to stay home (unpaid) rather than come and infect her small charges.

    And a food service worker would also not come in while sick–that might make me feel better about eating locally.

    Could treating workers humanely lead to more productivity in the long run? Not to mention better public health.

  13. If you pay your nanny $15 per hour on the books, the actual cost is about $19 per hour. So if she is out three days with no doctor’s note, you would still have to pay her about $460 on wages, plus either pay another babysitter $460 or lose pay from your own job because you don’t work in Montclair and don’t work somewhere with mandatory paid sick leave.

    So protect one worker’s “right” to be paid for sick leave by forcing another working family to subsidize or sacrifice? There is a common sense reason why most employment statutes only apply to businesses with multiple employees, because it is unfair and unwise to force families to be subject to the same requirements as huge companies.

  14. If passed, this is going to result in more than a few individuals being moved to “off the books” status.

    Nice concept , but flawed as currently written.

  15. vanb – Perhaps my sarcasm was too oblique. Do ask your local small business owners if they are hanging on by their fingernails. Ask them when was the last time they could afford to take a day off, much less a vacation.

  16. I didn’t pick up the sarcasm, my mistake.

    I am self-employed, and trust me, I wish I could still get paid when I had to take a sick day, but it is unrealistic for that to happen unless it is a bargained for benefit with an employer.

  17. Teachers get 10 paid sick days per year, if they exceed that, pay is docked. I think the fear is that faking an illness will become the rule and cause caos, human nature being what it is. Being paid for clocked work is a real motivator, always has been. always will be. Pay for “calling out sick” in small operations leaves a hole, obviously. Explain hpw this would be enforced and what penalty is, please.

  18. I think most of us know that…”Second, although it will be up to judges to decide what the law means, it is drafted to give employees a right to sue employers directly in Municipal Court for alleged violations,” suing ones employer does not bode well for a good performance review. This might be much ado about nothing.

  19. Montclair Times Editor Mark Porter and his team are lovely people, but we disagree with their reasoning on this ordinance, as published on 10/23. (He still has ’til this week’s deadline to reconsider, recant & reverse his position for the 10/30 edition.) On Tuesday, Nov. 4, Montclair citizens need to COME OUT AND VOTE with their heads, not their emotions, to say NO to this lengthy, detailed ordinance (‘MONTCLAIR BALLOT QUESTION’) to derail Montclair business, abridge family privacy, and enrich the township and others, disguised as feel-good worker sugar. While you’re at it, vote LINE B for JEFF BELL FOR SENATE on Nov. 4 if you really want to change the status quo. BTW, for those interested, the full text of the ballot ordinance is posted at the Montclair Tea Party Facebook page:

  20. You mean THE Jeff Bell who’s been living in Virginia for the past 30 years and only this year has decided to come back and “reside” in NJ for the sole purpose of trying to carpetbag his way into a U.S.Senate seat ?

    No, Thank You.

  21. thanks @montclairrepublicans for posting that link to the Montclair Tea Party page. what a fun read.

    the post right before the ordinance text, for example, quotes the esteemed “thinker” Allan West thusly: “While you were sleeping, Barack Hussein Obama took out his pen and ordered our Military to enlist illegal aliens.”

    this is of course, sadly typical b.s.—but as we see each and every day, why let the truth stand in the way of the tea slurpers’ misinformed hijinks?

    so, @montclairrepublicans (plural? do you all take turns typing words?) kudos for clarifying how to vote on this issue!

  22. Just to be clear, I am not affiliated with the Montclair Republicans in any way. Lifelong Democrat who spent a week in Ohio campaigning for Obama in the primary for the ’08 election.

    Frankly, mixing of the Booker/Bell election and “Tea Party” politics distracts from the apolitical problems this ordinance presents. I am voting against it as a Democrat.


  23. I find it odd on these boards that people have to qualify their political affiliation at all. Who cares if you are a democrat, republican or other….if you have an opinion on the vote at hand, that’s all that matters. While it may only influence the 30 readers of the blog, it’s valid.

    My opinion, I will vote against it. I think it will hurt small business and potentially drive them from Montclair. There should be a de-minimus employee exemption and the fine amount is too punative. Also, my famuily had a nanny on the books several years ago and it was an unending mess of confusion, forms and notices even though we used PayChex for it. Easier to take them off the books, pay cash and let them file a 1099. Measures like this will make that even more appealing. Not having this law does not stop employers from giving sick days if they want to be good employers, but mandating it with penalizing fines and I’m sure more administration is not the right incentive.

  24. “I find it odd on these boards that people have to qualify their political affiliation at all. Who cares if you are a democrat, republican or other…”

    If people want to do the disservice to themselves of admitting they are democrat or republican that is fine with me. It is 2014, intelligence and affiliation with either of these two parties are generally mutually exclusive. Think for yourself.

  25. New Jersey Workers Needs Paid Sick Leave

    Some years ago, my ten-year-old Becky and I were eating breakfast, when she suddenly started complaining of a headache. I took her temperature and it had soared to over 101. I was the executive director of a legal aid office and had scheduled an important staff meeting at work. My wife wasn’t home so I called the office and told my secretary I couldn’t come in. I used a paid sick day, a benefit that accrued to all the staff, and stayed home to care for my little girl.

    Paid leave is especially important for those who have difficulty making ends meet.

    Over 1 million New Jerseyans work at places where they cannot earn a single paid sick day, which means they have to choose between taking care of a child with the flu or risk losing a day’s pay, or even their job. I live in Montclair and according to the U.S. Census Bureau there are 16,438 private-sector workers in Montclair Township. Of those, the Center for Women and Work at Rutgers University estimates that 7,068 are without paid sick leave.

    We in Montclair have an opportunity to do something this November 4, on Election Day. Not only will voting yes help our town, but winning paid sick days will also help spur a statewide movement.

    Whether you’re an executive director of a law firm, or a healthcare worker, or an adjunct-minimum wage college teacher, or dishwasher, you should have a right to a few paid sick days to care of yourself, your kids or an elderly mom.

    You can read more in my Star Ledger blog.

  26. It’s always interesting to me that we want and expect things from our employers for ourselves but we want to deny them to others.

  27. John – Why didn’t any of the grassroots groups you reference in your post ask the elected town council to study the issue and draft an ordinance in line with their findings?

    Is allowing outside activist groups to draft the ordinance themselves with no input from the community really a “grassroots” initiative? Why should Montclair trust the claim that these groups have our town’s best interests in mind?

    We elect representatives to represent us. Nobody has ever cast a vote for a single one of the organizations you referenced.

    When you read your post, you get the impression that this ordinance is the result of a loud public outcry from Montclair’s population. Unfortunately, the truth is that this ordinance is being crammed through a rarely used loophole in the Faulkner Act and the drafters are relying on the voters’ lack of familiarty with the details as the way it gets passed.

    Undemocratic and the governance of the many by the very few.

  28. Montclairrepublicans is right when they this is “feel-good.” I’m on the other side of the aisle and I don’t think this is well thought-out either. This will end up as a weight around the neck of small businesses and push them out of Montclair because they cant afford to do business here.

  29. I agree with the comments about small businesses being driven out by the town.This is yet another way that feels like Montclair isn’t in support of small business. With parking issues, rents going up to compensate for tax increases, etc., it is just another hit that some will not be able to afford.

  30. 1 hour of sick time per 30 hours worked is a cost of labor increase of 3.3%, for the first 720 – 1,200 hours worked in a year. For a full time employee, it’s a cost increase of 1-1.5%.

    This cost increase also comes with the ability for employers to present sick days as a benefit of working that may not exist in other locations. You can work at my boutique and get paid sick days, or a boutique in Verona and get nothing.

  31. Here is a good example of why this process is screwed up.

    I have had prior conversations with an official with the Policy Director from NJ Working Families where he confirmed that the proposed ordinance intentionally provides babysitters and nannys with five days of paid sick leave. A household employee exemption was specifically not included.

    A couple of weeks ago I got a call from a pro-sick leave ordinance phone banker seeking to get my support for the ordinance. I asked her whether it would apply to families that employ a nanny or babysitter, and after conferring with a “supervisor”, I was told unequivocally that it did not. This was clearly factually and legally incorrect.

    I let the Policy Director know, and was told that they would take steps to prevent it from happening again.

    Out of curiosity, I called the Montclair Democratic headquarters today to see how they would advise a resident on the application of the ordinance to a babysitter or nanny. Again, I was advised that it would not apply.

    How many people have asked their phone bankers and canvassers the same questions and received the same flatly incorrect answer? How many people signed the initial petition based off of incorrect information? More importantly, how many people will vote next Tuesday based upon this incorrect information?

    This is what happens when you have unelected groups with no allegiance to the residents of Montclair draft legislation. They don’t care about the details and the real life application of the ordinance. They just want a “win”, with no regard for what they leave behind when they do.

  32. “This is what happens when you have unelected groups with no allegiance to the residents of Montclair draft legislation.”

    Well, Councilors Spiller and Russo are backing this along with EC Freeholder Gill. Spiller represents the 3rd Ward which is a majority of Montclair Center. Councilor Russo won a landslide in the 4th Ward. The 2nd Ward is the Blue Wave Ward….and the 1st Ward never carries anything.

    So, johnqp, I think your call is likely.

  33. Not to be cynical, but are they backing the ordinance or the political groups that drafted it?

    Did any of them ever introduce a sick leave ordinance before Bluewave and friends put the wheels of this one in motion?

    I agree that it will probably pass, but that doesn’t mean it is a good thing for Montclair.

  34. Agreed jcunningham, I am posting a lot on this. That said, I know most of the town received a couple of flyers in the mail yesterday in support of the ordinance, so pretty sure the ratio of public comment on this issue is 987,262 to 1 in their favor!!

  35. I don’t know what the big deal is. Montclair is a “hip” progressive town and there is a price to pay to be cool…so pay it! A $20 minimum wage is next….just raise the price of problem everyone will thumb their noses at Amazon and still shop in town because it’s the right thing to do. Just curious….can you make all your employees independent contractors to skirt the ordinance??

  36. “You can work at my boutique and get paid sick days, or a boutique in Verona and get nothing.”

    If that were useful, it would already be in place.

    Above, someone cited a cost of 3.3% for 30 hours worked. Just using that number as an example: what about the employee that prefers the cash? In Verona, he might be able to choose. In Montclair, nobody would get a choice.

    If this were state-wide (thereby decreasing the border penalty, at least for us {8^) and if this were tied in with some sort of requirement that certain employees – restaurant workers being an obvious example – use sick days when sick rather than “banking” them, then I’d be a lot less worried. As it is, I fear that this will make Montclair even less attractive to small businesses.

    That translates either to empty storefronts or a Mall Montclair of chain stores. Neither seems an attractive prospect.


  37. “This is what happens when you have unelected groups with no allegiance to the residents of Montclair draft legislation.”

    This is going somewhat off-topic, but I think the problem of the uninformed or misinformed voter goes well beyond this one issue of an unelected group. You’ll note that both political left and and right are now collaborating in the fight against shared minimum standards for our schools. An ignorant and disinterested populace is easier to lead regardless of who might be doing the leading.

    Another complaint this raises is the lack of serious political coverage in town. Groups can abuse the process because they’re never called on it. The example I cite is that of the last town election where one “slate” was vilified for letting local kids get involved, while another “slate” (that which won, as it happens) brought in kids from out of town during the final day or so.

    It was clever in that there was no time for there to be much complaint, and then everyone just dropped the issue since the election was over. Since the election was done, there wasn’t much that could be done about the abuse of process.

    Still, the lack of coverage means a lack of consequences which means that these things will keep occurring. Why shouldn’t some group lie about a proposal before the voters? There’s no cost to this, and it might work.


  38. “Just curious….can you make all your employees independent contractors to skirt the ordinance??”

    That depends. The IRS weighs a number of different factors to determine employee vs. independent contractor status. There is no “bright line” test per se.

  39. This would be a municipal ordinance, a violation would have to be proven in muny court. So a summons arrives at the employer’s address. A court date is set. In court at ClaremontE Ave, employee declares to muny judge a set of allegations, perhaps the allegations are written or sworn to or represented by city attorney. Employer denies or admits vilolation. Next day employee and employer meet at wor place. Finish the scene…what happens next?

  40. This could be the law of unintended consequences…but, a good one for wage compliance of current laws.

    Current law:
    The minimum wage for tipped workers in NJ is $2.13/hr. An employer has to pay payroll taxes on the total wages & tip compensation. An employer has to make up any wage shortfall if wages & tips fall below $8.25/hr.

    I assume the proposed sick leave ordinance applied to tipped workers will pay out sick days at the $8.25/hr minimum wage. In establishments where employee’s wage & tips average up to about $12-13/hr, the cost to the employer is negligible or reduced.

    However, as the tipped employees combined hourly exceed $13, the cost to the employer is a straight line increase.

    If the employer was not in compliance with the current wage law, then the cost issue of this new ordinance is irrelevant.

  41. And if jeffjacobson is correct, then I would think tipped employees could also take employers directly to Montclair municipal court for wage non-compliance (rather than going through the NJ Dept of Labor) if employers don’t pay sick pay at the $8.25 minimum level.

  42. If this passes, we will have voted ourselves a tax increase to provide added municipal court salary costs for more personnel, and increased case load and its costs for city attorney. The place for labor laws is state and federal level, not in small towns across the state.

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