Jersey City Sets the Standard for Working Families

Jersey City recently became the first city in New Jersey to require private employers to provide sick leave to workers. San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Seattle, Portland, Connecticut and, most recently, New York have similar regulations.

Before pro-business advocates reflexively gear up opposition to this law they should take time to study it.  The Jersey City ordinance is a well crafted piece of legislation that reflects careful thinking, smart lawyering and good policy.  Its terms are not onerous on small business and a uniform workplace standard actually makes small businesses more competitive.

While it might seem counterintuitive, this bold ordinance may encourage businesses to move to Jersey City, not discourage them.  Businesses compete for quality workers in a small geographic area.  Often, it is a benefit package that will persuade a good worker from selecting one job over another.  Good workers make good product.

Contrary to what the business lobby may argue, employment regulations that mandate fair wages, benefits and working conditions are not automatic “job killers.” When President Franklin D. Roosevelt first proposed the Fair Labor Standards Act during the Depression to help stimulate the economy, no one believed it would work. Instead, critics argued imposing a minimum wage would destroy small businesses and “constitute[] a step in the direction of communism, bolshevism, fascism, and Nazism.” The sky did not fall then, and it won’t fall in Jersey City.

In fact, the economic climate should improve. In states and cities that have implemented minimum wage laws, the unemployment rate is low and businesses are thriving. For instance, the city of Santa Fe adopted an ordinance in 2003 mandating $8.50 an hour wages with regular cost-of-living increases. Despite the projected economic doom and gloom, the city enjoys an unemployment rate of 4.6 percent, the lowest in New Mexico.

The findings have been similar for mandatory sick leave. San Francisco, the earliest adopter, passed an ordinance in 2006 entitling all workers to earn and use paid sick days. As Bloomberg reports, a 2011 study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) survey of 727 employers and 1,194 employees in San Francisco found that the law was working well. Six out of seven employers reported no negative impact on their profits.

It should not require legislation from government to tell businesses how to improve the performance of their employees because it should be obvious to any good business.  Because of the vision of the Jersey City Mayor and council and the excellent lawyering of the City Attorney and people who crafted this ordinance, the day will come that “made in Jersey City” may become an emblem of excellence.

For a discussion on proposed legislation that would require all New Jersey employers to provide mandatory sick leave, please see “New Jersey May Be Next State to Require Sick Leave” on the Scarinci Hollenbeck Business Blog.

Donald Scarinci is a managing partner at Lyndhurst, N.J. based law firm Scarinci Hollenbeck.  He is also the editor of the Constitutional Law Reporter and Government and Law blogs.


Jersey City Sets the Standard for Working Families