TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg that would establish in law the donated leave program for State employees for use during a major illness was approved today by the Senate.
The bill, S-1401, establishes in law provisions of current Civil Service Commission regulations that provide State employees access to a donated leave program for use in extreme health circumstances in which an employee who meets certain eligibility may receive donations of sick and vacation leave from co-workers. Eligibility criteria includes provisions that the employee has completed at least one year of continuous service, exhausted all accrued sick, vacation and administration leave, and has not been disciplined for absenteeism or lateness within the preceding two-year period.
Additionally, under current regulations, the employee must meet one of the following criteria: suffers from a catastrophic health condition or injury; needs to provide care for a family member suffering from a catastrophic health condition or injury; or requires absence due to the donation of an organ. The catastrophic health condition or injury must be life-threatening, a combination of conditions, or require an employee’s absence from work for 60 or more work days.
“When major illness strikes, most people aren’t prepared and it is often devastating. This bill will establish in law the current practice that state employees can donate their sick or vacation days to colleagues suffering from such severe and prolonged health conditions and who have exhausted their own sick leave allowance,” said Senator Weinberg (D-Bergen). “Not only is it an act of compassion, but this will help relieve the burdensome financial implications of time off from work for a severe illness.”
The bill revises eligibility to use donated leave for a period of disability required by pregnancy when the employee provides medical verification of the need for absence from work for 30 or more days, rather than the current 60 or more days, either before the expected delivery date or after the actual delivery date. It also eases the restriction that the employee must have exhausted all accrued leave to only accrued sick leave.
“Complications of pregnancy and childbirth can also require extended time off from work, and this bill furthers the rights of State employees during those times,” said Senator Weinberg. “Reducing the requirement for the need of absence to 30 or more days is more aligned with realistic scenarios, and allows pregnant women to take the medically required time off through the donated leave program without a direct hit to their income or health benefits.”
In line with current regulations, the bill would also provide that employees, or their supervisors, must request the approval of their appointing authority to become a leave recipient or donor.
Under the bill, leave recipients would be allowed to receive between five and 260 sick or vacation days, and no donor would be permitted to donate more than 30 days to one recipient. Donors would also be required to have a balance of at least 20 days of accrued sick leave and 12 days of accrued vacation leave after donation.
The bill was approved today by the Senate with a vote of 24-10 and now heads to the Assembly for consideration.