What New Jersey Employers Should Know About Expanded Family Leave Laws
July 19, 2019
Gov. Phil Murphy Recently Signed Legislation that Significantly Expands New Jersey’s Paid Family Leave Laws
Gov. Phil Murphy recently signed legislation that significantly expands New Jersey’s paid family leave laws, including the Family Leave Act (NJFLA), Family Leave Insurance law (NJFLI), and New Jersey Security and Financial Empowerment (SAFE) Act. The new law is one of several employment initiatives by the Murphy Administration in recent months.
“No one should ever be forced to choose between caring for a family member and earning a paycheck,” Governor Phil Murphy said in a press statement. “By providing the most expansive paid family leave time and benefits in the nation, we are ensuring that New Jerseyans no longer have to face such a decision and that working families are treated with the respect and dignity they deserve.”
One of the significant changes — lowering from 50 to 30 employees of the threshold at which employers must grant unpaid family leave to employees without terminating employment because of the leave — took effect on June 30, 2019. This article summarizes additional changes set forth in Assembly Bill 3975 that should be on the radar of New Jersey employers.
Changes to New Jersey’s Family Leave Act
The Family Leave Act currently allows workers to take up to six weeks of paid leave during any 12-month period in the form of state temporary disability insurance benefits. Employees on paid leave receive two-thirds of their salary, to a maximum of $677 per week.
Effective July 1, 2020, the amount of weekly FLI and TDI benefits will increase from two-thirds of a claimant’s average weekly wage to 85 percent of that wage, subject to a maximum amount. The maximum will rise from 53 percent to 70 percent of the Statewide average weekly wage (SAWW) for all workers. Using 2019 data, the maximum possible benefit would go up from $650 a week to $860 a week.
The amendments also double the maximum FLI benefit period from six to 12 weeks during any one-year period. In addition, the maximum intermittent FLI leave will increase from 42 to 56 days. Both changes also take effect on June 30, 2020.
The new law also eliminates the one-week waiting period before the payment of FLI benefits. In addition, employers may no longer require that employees use all their paid leave, up to two weeks, before the payment of FLI benefits. Below are several other amendments:
- The definition of “family” is expanded to include siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, parents-in-law and those who are the “equivalent” of family members;
- Employees may use intermittent leave upon the birth, adoption or foster care placement of a child without the employer’s approval.
- A worker with more than one employer will be allowed to receive FLI benefits for leave taken from one employer while continuing other employment if the worker does not increase the amount of the other employment during the leave.
- Leave insurance will be available for workers who are victims of domestic violence or sexual assault and for family members to care for these victims; and
- An employee who becomes a parent of a child pursuant to a gestational carrier agreement will have the same rights to family leave as an employee who is a parent of a newborn child.
New Jersey employers should also be aware that the amendments enhance the penalties for noncompliance with the TDI and FLI laws. Specifically, employers who fail to provide certain notifications and disclosures as required will be fined up to $1,000 and in certain cases imprisoned for up to 90 days.
In addition, the new law expressly prohibits employer retaliation against an employee for taking or requesting TDI or FLI benefits. An employer may not discharge, harass, threaten, or otherwise discriminate or retaliate against an employee with respect to the compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment on the basis that the employee took or requested any family temporary disability leave to which the employee was entitled, except that employers with fewer than 30 employees are not required to reinstate an employee after a period of FLI leave. The civil fine for the first act of prohibited retaliation ranges from $1,000 to $2,000 with each subsequent violation resulting in a fine not to exceed $5,000.
The new law also aims to expand awareness of New Jersey’s paid family leave insurance program. It allocates $1.2 million to education and outreach efforts for the program and directs the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development to disseminate information about the rights and responsibilities of employers and employees regarding family temporary disability benefits.
Next Steps for New Jersey Employers
New Jersey’s expanded paid family leave laws will require many employers to review and update their leave policies and procedures. New poster requirements will also be forthcoming in 2020. For compliance assistance, we encourage businesses to work with an experienced New Jersey employment attorney.
If you have any questions, please contact us
If you have any questions or if you would like to discuss the matter further, please contact me, Sean Dias, or the Scarinci Hollenbeck attorney with whom you work, at 201-806-3364.