If you work in New Jersey, you likely know someone who has taken medical leave from work either to care for themselves or members of their families. Two laws allow qualifying employees to take leave in the state, including the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA and the New Jersey Family Leave Act (NJFLA). Both of these laws provide eligible employees with the right to take unpaid leave from work for qualifying reasons.
Under the FMLA, eligible employees can take up to 12 weeks off from work in 12 months to care for their serious medical conditions or those of their family members. The NJFLA allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks off from work in 24 months to care for the serious medical conditions of their family members, but it does not allow leave to employees to care for their own serious medical conditions. Leave under either law is job-protected, which means that a person who takes leave must be restored to their former position or one that is equivalent in its terms and conditions once their leave is over.
Here is what you need to know about taking leave under both the FMLA and the NJFLA from the employment lawyers at Swartz Swidler.
Qualifying for Leave Under the FMLA and NJFLA
The FMLA and NJFLA have similar qualifiers, but there are some differences. Both laws cover private employers operating in New Jersey with at least 50 employees. The FMLA only covers these employers when 50 or more employees work within a 75-mile radius. By contrast, the NJFLA covers private employers with 50 employees regardless of where their employees work, including in other states as long as some of them work in New Jersey. The number of employees an employer has can be increased when an entity, division, or subsidiary of a company shares common control, ownership, and management.
Employees are eligible for leave under the FMLA when they have worked for a covered employer for at least 12 months and at least 1,250 hours in the past year. Under the NJFLA, employees are eligible if they have worked for a covered employer for at least 12 months and at least 1,000 hours during the past year, so some employees might qualify for leave under the NJFLA but not the FMLA.
There are also some differences in the qualifying reasons for taking leave. The FMLA allows eligible employees to take leave for the following purposes:
- To get treatment for their serious health condition
- To care for a spouse, child, or parent’s serious health condition
- To care for a military service member’s service-related injury
- To give birth
- To bond with a newly born or adopted child or a newly placed foster care child
- To prepare for a military service member’s impending active duty service
The NJFLA allows employees to take leave to care for the serious medical condition of a child, spouse, parent, or parent-in-law. However, it doesn’t provide leave to an employee for their own serious medical condition and doesn’t offer military-related leave.
Amount of Allowable Leave
For most employees, leave under the FMLA is limited to 12 weeks in a single 12-month period. However, for those who need to take leave for a military servicemember’s service-related serious health condition or to prepare for a deployment, the leave can be extended to 26 weeks in 12 months.
The NJFLA allows people to take family leave for 12 weeks in 24 months. Both laws allow the leave to be taken in a continuous block of time or intermittently.
In some cases, the FMLA and the NJFLA might cover the same incident. In that case, the leave under both laws might run concurrently. For example, if an employee needs to take time away from work to care for their child’s serious health condition for 12 weeks, they would exhaust their leave under both laws.
By contrast, it is sometimes possible for an employee to take leave under one law followed by leave under the second law when the reason for doing so is different. For example, if an employee takes 12 weeks of leave for cancer treatment under the FMLA, and their spouse then suffers serious injuries in a car accident, the same employee can then take up to 12 weeks of leave under the NJFLA to care for their spouse while they recover.
Use of Paid Leave
Employers can require employees to use up their accumulated paid leave at the same time they are away from work on leave under the FMLA or NJFLA. The rule is that the employer must follow the same practice it has used in the past concerning the requirement to exhaust paid leave while the employee is off from work. Its policy about using up paid time off during unpaid FMLA or NJFLA leave must be consistently applied.
Consult an Employment Lawyer
If you have questions about your rights under the FMLA and NJFLA, you should talk to an attorney at Swartz Swidler. many employees find these two laws confusing. Some employers also deny leave to employees who are entitled to take it. Our attorneys can talk to you about your situation and explain the legal rights you might have under both of these laws. Call us today to learn more at (856) 685-7420.