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New Jersey Family Leave Act – Background
New Jersey provides a number of protections to employees in the form of unpaid and paid leaves of absence. The NJFLA gives employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid protected leave in a 24-month period for qualified reasons, including to bond with a “child” or to care for the serious illness, injury or health condition of a “family member.”
The employer must have at least 50 employees who have been working for at least 20 weeks during the current or previous year. When counting the number of employees, all of the employer’s employees, whether located in New Jersey or not, are included.
The employee who wants to take leave must have worked for that employer for one year and must have worked at least 1,000 hours, including paid overtime hours, during the 12 months immediately prior to taking the leave.
The New Jersey Family Leave Act permits leave to be taken for:
- The care of a newly born or adopted child, as long as leave begins within one year of the date the child is born to or placed with the employee; or
- The care of a parent, child under 18, spouse, or civil union partner who has a serious health condition requiring in-patient care, continuing medical treatment or medical supervision.
The Family Leave Act considers parents to be: in-laws, step-parents, foster parents, adoptive parents or others having a parent-child relationship with an employee.
Amendment to the New Jersey Family Leave Act
On February 19, 2019, Governor Murphy signed into law A-3975, a sweeping piece of legislation that expands New Jersey’s paid family leave laws. Following are some highlights of the bill:
- As of June 30, 2019, the definition of a covered employer would include those with 30 employees, as opposed to 50 employees, for each calendar day of 20 or more calendar workweeks.
- The definition of “parent” is now expanded to include foster parents and those who became parents via a gestational carrier. Likewise, the definition of “family leave” is now expanded to include care for foster children and children who are born via a gestational carrier.
- The definition of “family member” is now expanded to include siblings, grandparents and grandchildren, parents-in-law, domestic partners, any individuals related to the employee by blood, and more broadly, “any other individual that the employee shows to have a close association with the employee which is the equivalent of a family relationship.”
Employees are now eligible to take leave under the New Jersey Security and Financial Empowerment Act (“NJ SAFE Act”) to care for any of the aforementioned individuals in the event of domestic violence or sexually violent incident. Under the new law, employees are now entitled to a reduced leave schedule for up to 12 consecutive months for any one period of leave, as opposed to 24 consecutive weeks.
Temporary Disability Benefits Law
The new law allows employees to take leave for the birth or adoption of a child on an intermittent basis pursuant to New Jersey’s Temporary Disability Benefits Law. Under the prior law, individuals were entitled to receive up to 6 weeks of benefits for family temporary disability leave, or 42 days of intermittent leave, for a single period of family temporary disability leave or any 12-month period.
The new law has increased those benefits to 12 weeks of consecutive leave or 56 days of intermittent leave for any period of leave commencing on or after July 1, 2020. Also, individuals taking disability and those taking family temporary disability leave beginning on July 1, 2020, or thereafter will be entitled to 85% of their average weekly wage, up to a maximum of 70% of the State-wide average weekly wage, for up to 12 weeks of consecutive leave or 56 days of intermittent leave.