A coalition of community and labor groups is urging New Jersey lawmakers to pass legislation that would require employers to give all workers in the state paid time off when they're sick.

More than a million employees in New Jersey don't have paid sick days, and most of them are low-wage earners, said Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg.

"In fact, it is practically everybody who earns less than $20,000. They are the food-service workers, the home health care workers," said Weinberg, D-Bergen, during a budget hearing Tuesday.

Acknowledging that employers are worried about the cost of providing paid sick leave, Assemblywoman Pam Lampitt said cities that have enacted ordinances requiring it have not seen it abused.

"We need to realize that the impact is that these employees give back to their employers when they believe that they are being taken care of," said Lampitt, D-Camden.

Workers who don't have earned sick days can be fired because they take a day off when they are ill, said
Analilia Majia, executive director of the New Jersey Working Families Alliance.

"We believe that the momentum that has been gained in New Jersey by having Jersey City and the city of Newark pass ordinances that set a strong floor in this issue is a sign that New Jerseyans are ready for a little more justice for regular workers," she said.

If lawmakers approve the bill and Gov. Chris Christie vetoes it, union leaders say they'll urge towns to follow the lead of Jersey City and Newark and enact their own sick-leave requirement.