New Jersey Significantly Expands its Employee Family Leave Entitlements
On February 19, 2019, Governor Murphy signed into law legislation significantly expanding employees' rights under the State's Family Leave Act (NJFLA), Temporary Disability Law (NJTDL), and the Security and Financial Empowerment Act (SAFE Act). These amendments significantly effect employers in New Jersey. Some of the more significant changes are discussed below.
New Jersey Family Leave Act
Under the NJFLA, eligible employees are entitled to up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 24-month period for the birth or adoption of a child or to take care of a family member with a serious illness, injury, or health condition. The new law makes the following notable changes to the NJFLA:
Effective June 30, 2019, the NJFLA will cover employers with 30 or more employees, instead of the current 50 or more employee threshold.
Effective immediately, the definition of "family member" has been broadened to include parent-in-law, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, blood relatives, and "any other individual that the employee shows to have a close association with the employee which is equivalent of a family member.
Effective immediately, the definitions of family leave, child, and parent now cover leave for the placement of a foster child or the birth of a child via a gestational carrier or surrogate.
Effective immediately, the period in which employees may take intermittent or reduced schedule leave has been expanded from 24 consecutive weeks to 12 consecutive months.
New Jersey Temporary Disability Benefits Law
The changes to the NJTDL become effective July 1, 2020. As of that date, the monetary benefits available to employees on temporary disability leave will increase from approximately 66% to 85% of the employee's weekly wage (subject to a cap of $860 a week). The new law also increases the eligible benefit weeks from six to 12 for any temporary disability leave that commences on or after July 1, 2020.
The SAFE Act provides unpaid leave for employees who work for employers with 25 or more employees and require leave because they or a family member are victims of domestic violence or assault.
The SAFE Act has been amended, effective immediately, to prohibit employers from requiring employees using SAFE Act leave to use existing paid time off during SAFE Act leave, although employees may voluntarily choose to do so. Additionally, employees are now permitted to use NJTDL benefits for SAFE Act leave purposes. The definition of "family member" in the SAFE Act has also been amended to match the new definition of family member in the NJFLA.
Employers should review and update, as necessary, their handbooks and policies to ensure compliance with this significant expansion of the law. This is particularly important for employers with between 30 and 49 employees, who where not previously subject to the NJFLA, but will be as of June 30th.
If you have any questions about your business's leave law obligations, please contact us at (201) 345-5412 or use our online scheduling page to set up a complimentary consultation.