If you work for a covered employer in New Jersey and are an eligible employee, you are entitled to take leave from work under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Under the FMLA, eligible employees can take leave from work for 12 weeks or less to care for their family members’ serious medical conditions or for their own conditions. Leave under the FMLA is unpaid, job-protected leave. Here is what you should know about leave under the FMLA and whether you can take off from work under this law twice for different reasons during the same calendar year.
Coverage of the FMLA
The FMLA applies to employers that have at least 50 employees working within 75 miles of each other. To be eligible to take leave under the FMLA, you must meet the following criteria:
- Have worked for at least one year for your employer before the date of your leave
- Have worked a minimum of 1,250 hours for your employer during the past year
- Have a serious health condition or have a family member with a serious health condition
FMLA leave can also be taken to welcome a new child, including a newborn, newly adopted, or foster care child. You can also take leave under the FMLA to take care of tasks related to your loved one’s deployment with the military or for a servicemember’s serious injuries related to his or her military service.
Can You Take FMLA Leave Twice in a Year?
As long as you have qualifying medical conditions and are otherwise eligible, you can take FMLA leave twice a year for two different conditions as long as the total amount of leave is less than 12 weeks. For example, if you need to take leave for five weeks to recover from a car accident injury and later need to take leave from work to care for your child while he or she recovers from pneumonia, you should be allowed to do so. Your job should be protected in both instances. However, make sure you keep track of your time off from work to ensure you don’t exceed the 12 weeks allowed in a year.
What Happens if You Need More than 12 Weeks of Leave From Work?
While your employer might allow you to take a few extra days of leave off from work beyond 12 weeks, it will be unlikely to extend your leave for much longer than that while saving your job. Depending on your circumstances and your employer’s ability to reasonably accommodate you, you might be able to get extended leave under the FMLA as a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Under the ADA, your employer must provide reasonable accommodations to you if you have a qualifying disability and need additional time off from work unless allowing you to take more time off would create an undue hardship for your employer.
Military Leave Under the FMLA
The FMLA allows eligible employees to take up to 26 weeks off from work in one year to care for a military service member’s serious injury. However, this leave is per service member and per injury. Once the 26 weeks is up, you will not be allowed to take additional leave to continue taking care of the same service member for the injury during the year unless another military service member also suffers an injury on active duty.
Combining FMLA Leave With the New Jersey Family and Medical Leave Law
There are some situations in which you might be able to take 12 weeks of leave under the FMLA and another 12 weeks of leave under the New Jersey Family and Medical Leave Law during the same year. Unlike the FMLA, however, the New Jersey Family and Medical Leave Law does not cover leave taken by an employee to care for the employee’s serious health condition. However, this law allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks off from work in 24 months to care for the serious health condition of an immediate family member. The New Jersey Family and Medical Leave Law also allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks off in 24 months to care for a newly born or adopted child.
For example, if you give birth to a child and take 12 weeks of leave under the FMLA, you could then take 12 weeks off from work under the New Jersey Family and Medical Leave Law to take care of a different child’s serious health condition for a total of 24 weeks off during a calendar year. However, the 12 weeks of leave under the New Jersey Family and Medical Leave Law is only available every 24 months instead of every 12 months.
Get Help from Swartz Swidler
If you need to take leave under the FMLA twice during the same 12 months for different conditions, you can do so as long as your total leave is not more than 12 weeks. While it is possible to get extended FMLA leave, doing so is complicated. It might be possible for you to take additional leave by combining your leave under the FMLA with leave under the New Jersey Family and Medical Leave Law. For help with determining your rights under these and other employment laws, contact Swartz Swidler for a free consultation by calling (856) 685-7420.