New Jersey Expands Leave Benefits for Employees
The Governor of New Jersey on February 19, 2019, signed legislation that greatly expands the protections and benefits of the New Jersey Family Leave Act and the New Jersey Temporary Disability Benefits Law. Employers should review their current policies and procedures immediately to ensure compliance.
New Jersey is one of only a few states that provides temporary leave benefits to employees who are taking time to care for a family member. These new measures expand those benefits in numerous ways, some of which go into effect immediately.
Key changes include:
- Expanding the definition of "employer" to include entities with 30 or more employees. The previous requirement was 50 or more employees. Effective June 30, 2019;
- Expanding the definition of "family member" to allow leave to care for a sibling, grandparent, grandchild, parent-in-law, blood relatives, and any individual with whom the employee can demonstrate a close association equivalent to that of a family member. Effective immediately;
- Expanding the definition of "family leave" to include leave to care for foster children and children who are born by way of a gestational carrier. Effective immediately;
- Allowing family leave under the NJ SAFE Act to care for family members involved in a domestic violence incident. Effective immediately;
- Prohibiting employers from requiring an employee who is a victim of domestic violence, or who is taking leave to care for a family member involved in an incident of domestic violence, to take concurrent paid time off. Instead, that decision is now at the discretion of the employee. Effective immediately;
- Expanding the law to permit employees to work on a reduced leave schedule for up to 12 consecutive months. The previous maximum was 24 consecutive weeks. Effective immediately;
- Increasing paid family leave benefits from six weeks to 12 weeks. Effective July 1, 2020;
- Increasing paid family leave benefits from 42 days of intermittent leave to 56 days. Effective July 1, 2020;
- Increasing family leave payments. Individuals now will be entitled to 85 percent of their weekly wages, up to a maximum of 70 percent of the statewide average. Effective July 1, 2020; and
- The amendment also inserted a provision into the Temporary Disability Benefits Law, which prohibits an employer from taking an adverse action against an employee because the employee requested or took any benefits under the law. That includes a prohibition on retaliation "by refusing to restore the employee following a period of leave."
To ensure compliance with these amendments and other recent changes to New Jersey employment laws, employers should review their leave and other policies and practices. Given that many of these expanded employee rights take effect immediately, policies should be revised in the near term.
Ballard Spahr's Labor and Employment Group routinely assists clients in assessing and complying with state, federal, and local laws and regulations, including applicable leave and disability benefit laws.
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