TRENTON - A state lawmaker has introduced a bill that would protect New Jersey employees from being punished by their employers if they are unable to get to work during a declared state of emergency.

The bill, proposed by state Sen. Peter J. Barnes III, would prevent employers from requiring employees to use any sick, vacation, personal or other leave during a state of emergency.

“When the state or a municipality declares a state of emergency it is often because weather conditions are so terrible, it is simply too unsafe to venture out on the roadways,” said Sen. Barnes, D-Middlesex. “We have recently seen severe snowstorms that have left New Jersey roadways slick and dangerous and in years past, storms such as hurricanes Irene and Sandy have left communities completely incapacitated. Yet, many workers feel compelled to head out in bad weather so they are not punished by their employers. New Jerseyans should be able to make an objective decision to drive during a storm that reflects their own and their family’s safety rather than a fear of retribution by an employer or a loss of sick or vacation time.”  

The bill exempts employees of public safety agencies such as police, fire departments or emergency medical services.

An employer who violates the provisions of the bill would be subject to a penalty of up to $5,000 for the first offense and $10,000 for each additional offense.

The bill has been referenced to the Senate Labor Committee.