On January 1, 2009, New Jersey becomes the third state in the nation to implement a family leave insurance program. The New Jersey Paid Family Leave Act will permit employees to take paid time off to care for a sick family member. The act also provides benefits to workers who take time off to bond with newborn or newly-adopted children.
The New Jersey Family Leave Insurance program is funded by employee tax deductions. The program provides benefits to employees to partially replace income lost when they must take time from work. The law does not entitle employees to additional leave, over and above existing family leave laws such as FMLA, the federal Family and Medical Leave Act and the New Jersey Family Leave Act or NJFLA.
The New Jersey Paid Family Leave program does not guarantee that an employee will be returned to his or her job after leave; it simply provides cash benefits during the leave.
Under the new law, a New Jersey employer can require any employee to use up to two weeks of paid vacation or sick leave, or other paid leave, before going on leave. During these two weeks, (more…)
New Jersey employers still have time to comment on proposed changes to the FMLA regulations.
Click this link to add comments. Enter the keywords “Family and Medical Leave Act,” being sure to include the quotation marks. It is important to remember that any contact information an employer leaves will be visible to the public.
The comments may be made until April 11, 2008. After that date, the new regulations go into effect.
Several changes for employers are included in the new FMLA rules that were proposed by the U.S. Labor Department on February 11, 2008. These changes to the federal FMLA do not affect any state family leave laws.
One of the primary changes would essential broaden the scope of what is called “substitution of paid leave for FMLA.”
Under the law, employers are not required to pay employees who are taking FMLA leave. The employees may, on the other hand, take their sick leave concurrently with FMLA. For their part, employers may require them to do so.
The new rules would allow workers to use other types of accrued time off as well, including vacation time, personal leave, and paid time off (PTO), provided they meet their employers’ conditions. Employers, in turn, could require them to take the accrued paid time as FMLA leave.
Under the old rules, if Ron, as an example, has 2 weeks of accrued sick time, 5 weeks of paid vacation time, and 3 weeks of personal leave accumulated (a total of 10) he can only use the 2 weeks. Under the changes, he could use all 10 as FMLA leave. Because employees are entitled to as much as 12 weeks of FMLA leave annually, Ron would still have the right to take 2 more weeks of (unpaid) FMLA time.
Another proposed change allows employers to count FMLA leave as absent time when awarding “perfect attendance” certificates. The old rules do not allow employers to count FMLA leave as absent time. Employers and coworkers have both argued in the past that it is unfair for some workers to get attendance awards and possibly bonuses after using all 12 weeks of their FMLA leave.
More New Jersey FMLA Changes
The U.S. Labor Department is proposing some changes to the Family and Medical Leave Act, or FMLA, that would address the definition of “serious medical condition” and the process for medical certification of a condition.
These and other proposed changes will become law on April 11, 2008, at which time all employers must comply with them. Until that time, public comments will be accepted.
The Labor Department announced the proposed rule changes on February 11, 2008.
FMLA authorizes an employee to take as much as 12 weeks yearly of unpaid leave in the event of a “serious medical condition,” which could apply to the employee or to immediate family members.
Employers have the right to require that the condition be certified by a healthcare professional, in order to prevent abuse. Employers may also, under some conditions, require a second or third opinion, provided they pay.
The proposed new rules retain 6 definitions of “serious medical condition” but add some clarification on 2 terms. One definition of “serious medical condition” (it is only one of 6 of the definitions) requires that there by 3 consecutive days of incapacity and “two visits to a health care provider.” The term “two visits,” however, is left undefined in the current rules, and could mean anything, whether 2 per month or 2 per year. In the past a court has ruled that both visits must take place during the three-day incapacity period. But the proposed changes clarify the point to say that the 2 visits must happen within 30 days of the period of incapacity.
Other changes address the “Ragsdale” decision on employer penalties and make adjustments to the “fitness-for-duty” certification to return to work. The rules would determine that light duty no longer counts as FMLA leave and would allow employers to deny “Perfect Attendance” awards to workers who have taken FMLA. They would also allow for substitution of paid leave and affirm an employee’s right to settle FMLA cases out of court.
Victoria Lipnic of the U.S. Labor Department said the changes would “reflect court decisions” and “clear up ambiguities,” among other things.
Employers with 50 or more employees are required to comply with the New Jersey Family Medical Leave Act. This act guarantees up to twelve weeks of leave in a 24-month period for workers that have been employed at their company for at least 12 months. The employee must have worked at least 1,250 hours in that 12-month period.
I learned that employees can take time off for the birth or adoption of a child, within one year of the birth or placement. The employee may also take time off for the serious illness of a parent, child or spouse which requires in-patient care, continuing medical treatment or medical supervision. Provisions for reduced work schedules can also be arranged and covered under this act if necessary.
Employees are guaranteed their same position when they return to work. In some cases, as in layoffs or department closings, the original position is no longer available. The employer must then offer a position with equivalent pay, benefits and status.
What are the downsides of taking Family Medical Leave in New Jersey? First of all, the leave is unpaid, and an employee may be asked to use sick time to cover some of the benefit. Secondly, the leave doesn’t cover an employee’s own disabilities. The employee needs to apply for separate disability coverage. And the New Jersey law also limits the time taken to 12 weeks in 24 months, half that of the federal law, which gives 12 weeks in 12 months.
If an employee feels that they have been discriminated against, by being denied their leave or being penalized for taking leave, they may petition the NJ Division on Civil Rights for an investigation. However, the complaint must be made within 180 days of the infraction. A civil law suit can also be filed against the employer, but papers must be submitted to the New Jersey courts within two years of the infraction.
In my opinion posting the New Jersey Compete Labor Law poster is not only mandatory but is also a convenient way of informing employees of their rights under the state and federal laws.
Most states now have some sort of Family Leave law in place that accommodates employees who must deal with family issues. The New Jersey Family Leave Act applies to all employers who have at least 50 employees in the state, regardless of where their office is based. The Act states that employers must grant eligible employees time off from work when they have a new child, adopt a child, or when they must care for a seriously ill parent, child or spouse. A “parent” might also be a parent-in-law or a stepparent. The NJFLA provides for up to twelve weeks of leave over a 24-month period of time.
In order to be eligible for family leave, I noticed that an individual must have worked for the covered employer for a period of at least twelve months, and must have worked at least 1,000 hours during that 12 month period.
There is a federal Family and Medical Leave Act in place that is very similar to the New Jersey law. If you’re an employee and you take leave that is covered under both acts, your leave is counted under both acts at the same time. The Family and Medical Leave Act allows for up to 12 weeks of leave in a 12-month period, whereas the New Jersey Family Leave Act allows the 12 weeks over a 24 month period.
If you believe your rights have been violated under this act, you’ll want to visit the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights. The statute of limitations for filing a complaint with them is 180 days from the date of the violation. They handle and investigate claims, and try to bring the parties together to work out a settlement or an agreement. Remedies may involve rehiring, monetary settlement, or penalty charges.