Governor Murphy Expands Family Leave Law
Feb 25, 2019 | Written by: Share|
On February 19, 2019, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed legislation that significantly expands the existing NJ Family Leave Act (NJFLA), as well as the NJ Family Leave Insurance Law (NJFLI). The new law creates major changes, some of which employers must comply with by June 30, 2019.
The New Jersey Family Leave Act currently applies to employers who have 50 or more employees. Under the new law, that number is reduced to just 30 employees. Once the law goes into effect, all affected employers must provide their employees with 12 weeks of job-protected family leave during each 24-month period.
Governor Murphy’s new law also modifies the New Jersey Family Leave Act insofar as leave may be taken with the placement of a child into foster care with the employee, not just upon the birth or adoption of a child, which was part of the existing law. This change now mirrors the Federal Family Medical Leave Act.
Another change in the law expands the definition of “family member.” As written, the existing NJFLA provides leave time to employees to care for a member of their family with a serious health condition. Employers should know that family members will now include “parent-in-laws, siblings, grandparents” and “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 which is the equivalent of a family relationship.” The foregoing definition was also recently applied in connection with New Jersey’s Paid Sick Leave Law that went into effect on October 29, 2018.
The amendment likewise reduces advance notice to employers by employees from 30 days to 15 days when an employee requests intermittent leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition. Other leave requests, not tied to intermittent leave, remain at 30 days.
The New Jersey Family Leave Insurance Law generally provides wage replacement benefits to employees who are on leave through the State’s Temporary Disability Program.
Significantly, the amendment doubles the paid leave benefits an employee may receive from six to twelve weeks within a 12-month period, beginning after July 1, 2020. Intermittent paid leave benefits are also increased.
The current law allows intermittent leave only to care for a newborn child or an adopted child, while the new law also allows for intermittent leave to be used in a case of foster care placement.
In addition to the extension of time pursuant to which benefits may be granted, the amendment also increases the cap on the weekly benefit amount from two-thirds to 85 percent of an employee’s weekly salary, to a maximum of 70 percent of the statewide weekly remuneration average. Based on the foregoing, it appears that a maximum benefit will increase to $859 per week from $633 per week.
Significant for employers, the amendment will now prohibit employers from requiring employees to use up to two weeks of paid time off in lieu of their NJFLI benefits. Additionally, if an employee chooses to utilize paid leave benefits by the employer, it will not reduce the amount of NJFLI benefits available to the employee. And an increase to the wage amount on which taxes for temporary disability insurance (TDI) & family leave insurance (FLI) are levied will begin on January 1, 2020, with the amount rising to approximately $131,000.
As has been seen with recent legislation in New Jersey, the law will also contain a comprehensive anti-retaliation provision that will prohibit unlawful discharge, harassment or other conduct interfering with the terms or conditions of employment based on the employee’s request to take leave. Finally, there will no longer be a seven-day waiting period for NJFLI benefits.
Leslie A. Parikh, Esq., is a partner with Gebhardt & Kiefer, PC. She practices primarily in the areas of employment law, civil rights litigation, municipal law, insurance defense, and the representation of public entities in both State and Federal Court. Contact Ms. Parikh at 908-735-5161 or via email.
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