The New Jersey Family Leave Act
The New Jersey Family Leave Act (NJFLA) currently requires employers with 50 or more employees (counting those employed both in and outside New Jersey) to provide employees working in New Jersey with 12 weeks of job-protected leave in a 24-month period to care for a family member (parent, minor or disabled child, spouse, or civil union partner) with a serious health condition, or to bond with a newly born or adopted child (“bonding leave”). Recently passed legislation extends coverage to employers with 30 or more employees effective June 30, 2019. Therefore, if your company has more than 30, but less than 50 employees, this will mean a big change for which you should now be preparing.
Other new provisions of the family leave law have already taken effect. These provisions:
- Revise the definitions of “family leave,” “child,” and “parent” to provide for leave in situations involving the placement a foster child or the birth of a child via a surrogate or gestational carrier;
- Broaden the definition of “family member” (which previously included only child, parent, spouse, or civil union partner) to also include parent-in-law, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, domestic partner, or any other blood relative, and “any other individual that the employee shows to have a close association with the employee which is the equivalent of a family relationship”;
- Expand the period during which intermittent leave may be taken from 24 consecutive weeks to 12 consecutive months. Additionally, while employers previously had the option to grant or not grant intermittent leave for the birth or adoption of a child, intermittent leave now is mandatory if requested by the employee. Intermittent leave also may be taken for the placement of a foster child or the birth of a child via a gestational carrier.
New Jersey Security and Financial Empowerment (SAFE) Act
In addition, changes have been made to the New Jersey Security and Financial Empowerment (SAFE) Act. The New Jersey SAFE Act applies to employers with 25 or more employees and provides qualifying employees with up to 20 days of unpaid leave in a 12-month period to address circumstances resulting from domestic violence or a sexually violent offense affecting the employee or the employee’s family members. The SAFE Act has been amended to incorporate the much broader definition of family members in the NJFLA.
Additionally, employers may no longer require employees to use accrued paid vacation, personal or sick leave benefits for such leave, but employees may choose to do so. The law has also been amended to allow employees to elect to use benefits available under the New Jersey Temporary Disability Benefits Law.
Increased Family Leave Insurance Benefits
Family Leave Insurance (NJFLI) provides New Jersey workers with benefits during time-off from work to bond with a newborn or newly adopted child, or to provide care for a seriously ill or injured family member. The program provides employees up to six weeks of benefits paid at rate of two-thirds of their pay, to a maximum of $650. The new law will expand benefits to 12 weeks and increase the weekly benefits effective July 1, 2020 and broaden other protections immediately. More to come on that as the effective date approaches.
Employers should consult with experienced human resources professionals and/or labor and employment counsel about proper administration of FMLA leave. For MEA members, the Hotline and a Member Legal Services attorney are available to provide this assistance.
Amy G. McAndrew, Esquire
Director of Member Legal Services
MidAtlantic Employers’ Association
*This Alert is provided for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.