On February 19, 2019, Governor Phil Murphy signed into law an amendment to the New Jersey Family Leave Act, the New Jersey Security and Financial Empowerment Act, and the New Jersey Family Leave Insurance Benefits Law. This employer alert highlights notable aspects of the amendment.
- New Jersey Family Leave Act
Prior to the amendment, the New Jersey Family Leave Act (“NJFLA”) applied only to employers with 50 or more employees (within or outside New Jersey). Per the amendment, beginning July 1, 2019 the NJFLA will apply to employers with 30 or more employees (within or outside of New Jersey).
The NJFLA provides eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to provide care to a family member. The amendment expands the definition of a family member to include a child, parent, parent-in-law, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, spouse, domestic partner, one partner in a civil union couple, or any other individual related by blood to the employee, and any other individual that the employee shows to have a close association with the employee that is the equivalent of a family relationship. Although the leave would be unpaid, the employer must maintain the employee’s medical benefits through its group plan, and provide the employee with job restoration rights at the end of the leave.
Employers with 50 or more employees need to modify their NJFLA policy to provide for the new definition of a family member. Employers with 30-49 employees will need to establish the necessary policies and procedures to comply with the NJFLA, and are well-advised to provide training to all levels of management as to the employee’s rights under the law and the employer’s obligations.
- New Jersey Security and Financial Empowerment Act
The New Jersey Security and Financial Empowerment Act (“NJ SAFE Act”) provides an employee who was the victim of domestic violence or sexual assault, or whose family member was, the right to request up to 20 days of an unpaid leave of absence to be taken within one year of the incident. The NJ SAFE Act was amended to incorporate the broader definition of a family member as described above, to prohibit the employer from requiring an employee to utilize any available paid time off benefits while on NJ SAFE Act leave, and to empower the employee to elect to use any available paid time off while otherwise on an unpaid leave of absence.
Any employer with 25 or more employees must comply with the NJ SAFE Act and maintain a policy informing employees of their rights and responsibilities under the law. Given the amendments to the law, employers with 25 or more employees are advised to modify their NJ SAFE Act policy to remain in compliance.
- New Jersey Family Leave Insurance Benefits
The New Jersey Family Leave Insurance Benefits Law (“NJFLI”) provides an employee, otherwise on an approved leave of absence from work, to apply to the State of New Jersey for temporary income replacement benefits. Notably, amendments to the law will: double the amount of time that an employee can receive NJFLI benefits from six weeks to 12 weeks in a one-year period, beginning July 1, 2020; expand the amount of intermittent leave NJFLI benefits from 42 days to 56, beginning July 1, 2020; increase the maximum weekly benefit amount; permit an employee that holds multiple jobs to receive NJFLI benefits from one job, while continuing other employment; and prohibit employers from requiring employees to utilize any available paid time off benefits before NJFLI would become payable.
In addition, the amendment extends NJFLI benefits to an employee who is on leave (e.g., per the NJFLA) to bond with a child placed in foster care, or on leave (per the NJ SAFE Act) to care for a family member who is a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault.
Other aspects of the NJFLI were also amended, which employers should discuss with legal counsel. Employers are encouraged to review their policy addressing the NJFLI and make the necessary modifications to ensure the policy remains compliant.
The Labor and Employment attorneys at Connell Foley LLP are available to assist employers with the review and modification of their policies and procedures, and training management level employees.