The New York Times

New Jersey Lawmakers Approve Paid Leave For Workers

The New York Times — Tuesday, April 8, 2008


TRENTON (AP) —New Jersey moved another step closer on Monday to becoming the third state in the country to give employees the right to take paid leave to care for a newborn or a sick relative.

The State Senate voted 21 to 15 to approve a bill that would offer such employees up to six weeks' paid leave. The Assembly approved the plan last month, and Gov. Jon S. Corzine said he would soon sign it.

But the measure, sponsored by Democrats, is opposed by many Republicans and business groups.

"Legislators and the governor seem to think our residents and employers have deep pockets and unlimited resources to fund their bloated bureaucracy, when that is far from the case," said Jim Leonard, a senior vice president of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce. "This madness has to end."

Mr. Corzine, a Democrat, said on Monday that his experience recovering from a nearly fatal car crash on April 12 last year had reinforced his support.

Mr. Corzine's children spent weeks helping him recover, but Mr. Corzine, who is a multimillionaire from his years at Goldman Sachs, said he realized that most families did not have the financial resources his family had to take time from work.

"People are served well by having their families near them and supportive of them in times of great stress," Mr. Corzine said.

Under the plan, which was heavily backed by organized labor, parents could take paid leave anytime in the first year after a child's birth or adoption.

Workers would be allowed to take paid leave to care for a sick relative receiving inpatient care in a hospital or under continuing supervision from a health care provider. A provider could also certify that a sick relative needed help at home.

The program would be paid for through a payroll deduction that legislative officials estimated would cost workers $33 a year. Workers who take leave would receive two-thirds of their salary, up to $524 a week, with an estimated average weekly benefit of $415.

Opponents likened the payroll deduction to a tax and said they feared it would increase if the program did not earn enough money to meet its needs.

New Jersey's plan is similar to ones in California and Washington state. Federal law allows some workers to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave.

California allows workers to take up to six weeks of paid leave under a 2004 law. Most people who have taken leave in the state have done so to care for a newborn, and more women have taken it than men.

Washington State has approved allowing workers to take five weeks of paid leave starting in October 2009, but the program could start later because lawmakers have not decided how to pay for it.

New Jersey estimates that 38,000 workers a year would take paid leave. The state has 4.1 million workers.

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