Brings Workplace Policies into 21st Century
TRENTON – Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg announced today that she will introduce the “Supporting New Jersey Families” bill package, legislation that would bring workplace policies into the 21st Century. The bills would create protections against abusive and unfair employer practices and provide opportunities for workers to take care of their family responsibilities while also making a living.
“What was once considered the ‘traditional’ family structure, with one parent serving as the breadwinner and the other remaining at home, no longer exists in many households. Yet many workers are in jobs that fail to take into account the need for flexibility and more family-friendly policies,” said Senator Weinberg. “It’s time that employers recognize the challenges faced by our residents and implemented workplace policies that will allow them to meet the needs of their loved ones. These bills will advance that effort in ways that will increase employee morale, productivity, and the success of the businesses that employ them.”
The four bills would create policies that would provide a better work-life balance for middle class families, giving parents greater predictability in their work schedules and the ability to participate in their children’s school activities. The measures would also make leave policies more accommodating for workers. In addition, the package includes legislation to create a commission to study and provide recommendations to combat pay discrimination in New Jersey.
The first bill, New Jersey Schedules That Work Act, would allow employees to request a change to their work schedules without fear of retaliation and requires that employers consider these requests. The bill also requires all employers with 15 or more employees to provide more predictable and stable schedules for workers in certain low wage occupations, and provides specific provisions for changes to schedules of retail, food service, and cleaning employees.
“Too many workers, particularly those in low-wage jobs, are subject to unpredictable schedules that have a major impact on their family life,” said Senator Weinberg. “By removing obstacles for working families and improving employment policies to meet the current workforce’s needs, we are creating more productive employees and promoting the steady growth of our state’s economy.”
Since 2014, 10 states have introduced legislation to curb abusive scheduling practices in low-wage jobs, according to the National Women’s LawCenter, which noted that the issue is particularly important to women who make up two-thirds of workers in low-wage jobs and still shoulder the lion’s share of caregiving responsibilities. Scheduling practices that do not take workers’ needs into account — like assigning shifts only a day or two ahead of time or cancelling them at the last-minute — can make maintaining stable child care nearly impossible and make it tougher to pursue education or training, or address one’s own medical needs, according to the NWLC.
To encourage and allow for increased opportunities for families to participate in their children’s educational activities, the Senator will introduce the Family-School Partnership Act, which is based on a successful California law that allows parents, grandparents, and guardians to take time off from work to participate in their children’s/grandchildren’s school activities. The bill would require New Jersey businesses with 25 or more employees to permit any employee who is a parent, grandparent, or guardian of a child attending a school or childcare facility to take up to 40 hours each year to participate in school activities. The employee must use available paid leave or compensatory time during the time off, but may utilize the time off whether or not paid leave is available.
“Children do better in school when their families are actively involved in their education, both at home and in school,” added Senator Weinberg. “Providing parents and family members with the flexibility to participate in school events without jeopardizing their livelihood is not only good policy, but will help to ensure that children grow up fully supported to achieve success and become contributing citizens of tomorrow’s society.”
The third bill would establish in law a leave program for all state employees. Current Civil Service Commission regulation allows state employees who have used all their accrued time to receive donation of sick and vacation leave from co-workers for life threatening conditions or disabilities requiring the care of a physician and an absence of 60 work days or more. The bill would codify this program for state employees and would expand the program to allow individuals that go out on disability leave during a pregnancy to use donated time.
The final bill would create the Study Commission on Gender Pay Discrimination to study the extent, causes and effects of gender-based pay discrimination throughout various sectors of the New Jersey economy. The Commission would be tasked with making recommendations to increase efforts to end gender pay discrimination through more effective enforcement of anti-discrimination laws and other measures to improve opportunities for the advancement of women in the workplace, including increased access to education and training, and fostering greater workplace stability and flexibility to attain a better balance between work and family.
“Striking the right work-life balance is a daily challenge, especially for the working class, as people are working harder to meet the everyday demands of their jobs and families to make ends meet. With stability in terms of schedule, equal pay for equal work, and a level of flexibility for families to actively participate in their children’s education and to care for their own health and that of their loved ones, we can help families succeed,” said Senator Weinberg.
“This package of bills is a work in progress, and I remain committed to engaging in productive dialogue with all stakeholders to address concerns as they evolve. This past weekend we celebrated Mother’s Day and I can’t think of a better way to honor the work and sacrifices of all mothers than to support them in their tireless efforts in caring for and supporting their families.”
The bills will be introduced at the next quorum call, scheduled for Thursday.