New Jersey became the tenth U.S. state to guarantee workers paid sick leave after Governor Phil Murphy signed the bill into law yesterday. Employers will be required to give employees at least five days off if they or their family members get sick — or if they need to recover from domestic or sexual violence. The latter provision, often called "paid safe time," is especially unique, and will also be rolling out in New York City on May 5th.
Paid safe time is an extension of paid safe leave that can be used — in NYC's case — for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and trafficking. A City Hall press release clarified that the bill does not add to the total amount of leave workers can take — "instead it adds reasons for using the leave to allow a survivor [...] to plan their immediate next steps and focus on safety, without fearing a loss of income."
"No one should be forced to choose between earning a living, or safety for oneself and children"
The mayor's office cited a study funded by the National Institute of Justice and the CDC which showed the impact of victimization on survivors' lives: women lost an average eight days of paid work as a result of being raped, seven days after a physical assault, and 10 days as a result of stalking.
"No one should be forced to choose between earning a living, or safety for oneself and children," wrote First Lady Chirlane McCray, a co-chair of the Commission on Gender Equality, in an emailed statement to Refinery29. "Any individual who experiences violence in the home or in a violent relationship needs the time and flexibility to consult police or prosecutors, seek medical attention or relocate to another neighborhood. Paid Safe Leave ensures that survivors in NYC have the opportunity to get the services and support they need without worrying about losing their job."
Ellen Bravo, co-director of Family Values @ Work expanded on the many reasons survivors may need time off in the aftermath of abuse, from going to doctors' appointments (both for physical and mental health reasons), to securing housing. The most dangerous time for victims of abuse is after they leave their abusers, so dedicating time to file reports and seek shelter is imperative, she explains. Many victims of intimate partner violence remain in abusive relationships because they lack financial independence, so ensuring that they don't lose their livelihoods when they stand up for themselves is important.
Bravo and Preston Van Vliet, the National Campaign Organizer of the LGBQ Work-Family Project, say more than 20 jurisdictions have implemented paid sick and safe days but workers should know that not all the laws function the same way. For example, in Los Angeles and San Francisco, sick time can be used for specific "safe time" purposes only when the worker is the victim; in Washington state, workers can use this time for a child, spouse, parent, parent-in-law, grandparent, and romantic partner.
"Several of the California municipals' paid sick day laws do not have their own safe time policy, but must abide by the safe time that is in the state law," Van Vliet explains. "Additionally, not all safe time policies are the same, particularly for who you can use your safe time to take care of. So, while there are technically 23 [paid sick and safe day jurisdictions], eight of those only let you use safe time if the worker is the survivor or to take care of a smaller set of family members than you're [typically] allowed to use your sick day for."
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