New Jersey lawmakers are considering legislation that would prevent employers from penalizing employees who can’t get to work during official states of emergency.
John Staab, building maintenance employee in the Pine Hill School District, commended the bill Monday during a Senate Labor Committee hearing.
“It would obligate employers to make a responsible effort to consider the safety of employees equal to the necessity of the services they offer,” he said.
But Michael Egenton of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce was one of several business group representatives who question whether statewide legislation is needed.
“Most employers I talk to say to me my most valuable asset is my employee,” he said. “I’m not going to put them in harm’s way. I’m going to work with them. I’m going to be flexible.”
The amended version of the legislation would not require employers to pay workers who stay home during a state of emergency, but those workers could use accumulated personal time to be compensated.
The regulations would not apply to essential health care and public safety employees.
Stefanie Riehl of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association argued that those exemptions don’t go far enough.
“Gas stations that fuel generators, insurance companies that takes claims, even roadside assistance companies,” she listed. “The public depends on them during time of crisis and states of emergency, and they are not currently exempted right now.”
Sen. Tony Bucco, R-Morris, cautioned his colleagues against taking up such a measure at all.
“This is a business decision,” he said. “Let the employer and the employees work out their differences amongst themselves and let the business owner decide which is best for his or her business.”