LOCAL 1085

Bill would give workers a break in emergencies

Updated September 16, 2014.  Stressed out over commuting to work on snow days? Senator Peter Barnes (D-Middlesex) has introduced a bill in the New Jersey Legislature that would protect most employees from punishment if they are unable to get to work due to a declared state of emergency.

S1717, which was introduced on March 17, was approved by the Senate Labor Committee on September 15, with amendments. Two local senators, Jim Beach and Fred Madden, were among the committee members who voted for it, while one Republican senator voted against it. See here for the amended version of the bill.

The bill prevents employers from imposing any adverse action on workers who decide to stay off the road or take extra time getting to work in bad weather. Workers could not be forced to use their own leave--whether paid or unpaid--in such cases. However, the protection would only apply if a state of emergency has been declared by the Governor or by a local emergency management coordinator. Employees of public safety agencies are not covered.

In a press release, Barnes stated that "We have recently seen severe snow storms that have left New Jersey roadways slick and dangerous . . . . Yet, many workers feel compelled to head out in bad weather so they are not punished by their employers."

Local 1085 President Rich Dann said the union was interested in the legislation because of concern over employee safety. He noted that the Governor had declared weather-related states of emergency six times this past winter, yet employees of Gloucester County were excused briefly only once. The Local's Health & Safety Committee has also raised the issue with Gloucester County officials.

The bill can now be voted on by the State Senate.

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