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Understanding New Jersey's family leave laws

An Overview of New Jersey's Family Leave Laws

New Jersey is one of the states in the US with comprehensive family leave laws that allow workers to take time off from work for family and medical reasons without fear of losing their jobs. Understanding these laws is essential for both employers and employees to ensure that they are compliant with the regulations and that workers can exercise their rights when needed.

New Jersey Family Leave Act (NJFLA)

The New Jersey Family Leave Act (NJFLA) enables eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 24-month period for certain family-related reasons. These reasons include the birth or adoption of a child, or to care for a family member (child, parent, spouse, or civil union partner) with a serious health condition.

To be eligible for NJFLA leave, an employee must have worked for their employer for at least 12 months and have logged at least 1,000 hours during the previous 12 months. The NJFLA applies to employers with 30 or more employees.

New Jersey Paid Family Leave

In addition to the NJFLA, New Jersey offers paid family leave through the state's Family Leave Insurance (FLI) program. This program is funded through employee payroll deductions and provides up to six weeks of paid leave (or up to eight weeks beginning on July 1, 2020), which can be taken consecutively or intermittently. As of January 1, 2021, this was expanded to 12 weeks of continuous leave or 56 days if taken intermittently within a year.

FLI benefits are calculated based on an employee's average weekly wage, with a maximum benefit limit set by the state each year. It's important to note that FLI doesn't protect an employee's job; however, job protection may be provided under the NJFLA or the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Interaction Between NJFLA and FMLA

The federal FMLA also provides eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave within a 12-month period for similar reasons as the NJFLA. However, the FMLA applies to employers with 50 or more employees. In situations where both the NJFLA and FMLA apply, the leaves usually run concurrently. This means that an employee cannot take 12 weeks of FMLA leave followed by another 12 weeks of NJFLA leave for the same qualifying event.

Additional Protections and Considerations

New Jersey law also requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant workers, such as bathroom breaks, rest periods, and assistance with manual labor. Furthermore, under the New Jersey Security and Financial Empowerment Act (SAFE Act), eligible employees who are victims of domestic or sexual violence, or whose family members are victims, can take up to 20 days of unpaid leave within a 12-month period.

Example: Jane Doe works for a medium-sized company in New Jersey and is expecting a baby. She plans to take eight weeks of paid leave under FLI following her delivery and then an additional four weeks of unpaid leave under NJFLA for bonding time. Since her employer has more than 50 employees, her leave will also be protected under FMLA rules concurrently with her NJFLA leave.

Conclusion

Understanding New Jersey's family leave laws is crucial for ensuring that employees can balance their professional responsibilities with personal or family needs without compromising their employment. Employers must stay informed about these laws to provide proper support and maintain compliance. As always, it is advisable for both parties to consult with legal professionals when navigating complex family leave situations.