The state of New Jersey recently enacted major amendments to its family leave laws. These amendments have greatly expanded the benefits employees can receive, and therefore, the impact on New Jersey employers cannot be understated. Here are some of the most important things that employers need to know:
Expanding the Definition of Employers Covered by the Law. The definition now includes those employers with 30 or more employees working for 20 or more calendar work weeks in the current or immediately preceding work year. The previous threshold was 50 employees.
Expanding the Definition of Parent and Family Members. The definition of parent now includes foster parents, and family members now includes siblings, in-laws, grandparents, grandchildren, domestic partners, anyone else related by blood, or anyone shown to “have a close association” with the employee, which is the equivalent of a family relationship. Likewise, the definition of family leave was broadened to encompass care provided by employees to this larger group of family members.
Victims of Domestic Assault. The New Jersey Security and Financial Empowerment Act, i.e., the SAFE Act, was amended to include these broadened definitions of family members. If an employee or their family member was the victim of domestic violence or sexual assault, the employee is entitled to 20 days of unpaid leave in the 12 month period following the incident. This leave is liberally construed, and can be used to seek, amongst others, medical treatment, legal services, or relocation.
Doubling the Number of Weeks of Paid Leave. As of July 2020, employees will be able to take up to 12 consecutive weeks of paid family leave during any 12 month period. Currently, the limit is six weeks. The number of days of intermittent leave allowable under the law was also increased. Employees may take up to 56 days of intermittent leave within a 12 month period, up from the previous limit of 42 days.
Increasing Leave Payments. Under the law, disabled employees are now entitled to 85% of their average weekly wage, with the maximum upper limit also increased to 70% of the statewide average weekly wage. Currently, that would increase the maximum weekly benefit to approximately $860.00.
Anti-Retaliation Provisions. Employers are prohibited from taking any retaliatory actions against employees who exercise their rights to family leave benefits under the law. This now includes an employer, who refuses to restore an employee to their position following a period of leave.
This is not an exhaustive list. As such, it is vitally important that New Jersey employers contact a qualified attorney with specific questions about how these amendments impact their own companies and policies.