State workers in New Jersey currently have the right to donate their unused sick and vacation time to a colleague who's dealing with a catastrophic health condition or who needs to care for a family member but has already exhausted all their own leave.

But as a regulation under the Civil Service Commission, the program isn't set in stone as a law. So there's a legislative push to codify the process that is said to promote teamwork among government employees.

The proposed law that cleared the full Senate in July and now awaits action in the Assembly would add pregnant women in certain cases to the pool of workers eligible for donated leave.

"It's a lifeline," said Frank Crivelli, a labor law attorney at Crivelli & Barbati in Hamilton. "To actually codify it by way of state statute, to continue that protection and ensure that protection moves forward, I think is a very good idea."

Crivelli's firm represents more than 50 public employment labor unions in the Garden State. He's seen donated-leave programs successfully implemented at the local level as well.

To be eligible for donated sick or vacation leave, a state employee must have at least one year of continuous service under their belt, and no recent history of chronic or excessive absenteeism, according to the proposed legislation from state Sen. Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen.

A leave recipient may not receive more than 260 sick or vacation days, or more than 30 from the same co-worker. If the donated leave goes unused, it would not be subject to compensation.

Those who are suffering from a catastrophic health condition or injury, or need to provide care to an immediate family member for the same reason, would be eligible for donated leave from co-workers, as long as the circumstances require an absence of at least 60 days from work. The legislation also applies to state employees who must miss work after donating an organ.

In addition, under the bill, leave may be donated to pregnant women who provide medical verification of the need for the employee's absence from work for 30 or more days.

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