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.
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.