The federal Family and Medical Leave Act lets eligible workers who are employed at covered employers the right to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave from their jobs each year in specific situations. To take this leave, workers must need to care for their own serious health conditions or the serious health conditions of their family members. New Jersey also has a state leave law that covers certain workers. Here is what the attorneys at Swartz Swidler believe that you need to know about the state and federal laws.
The New Jersey Family Leave Act
The New Jersey Family Leave Act allows eligible workers at covered employers in New Jersey to take up to 12 weeks of leave from their jobs every 24 months to bond with a new baby or a newly adopted child or to care for a family member’s serious medical condition. The NJFLA applies to employers that have 30 or more employees in New Jersey and anywhere else in the world. Eligible employees are people who have worked the required minimum number of hours of 1,000 in the 12 months that precede the date when the leave is needed. When an eligible employee works at a company that is covered under both the state and federal laws, and the leave qualifies under both laws, the time that the employee takes off from work will count towards his or her time under both the NJFLA and the FMLA.
The FMLA covers employers that have 50 or more employees who are employed within 75 miles of each other. Eligible employees are those who have worked at least 1,250 hours in the 12 months before the leave is needed. Employees who are eligible and who work for covered employers can take up to 12 weeks off each year to care for their own serious medical conditions or the serious medical conditions of their family members. The leave can be taken continuously, intermittently, or on a reduced schedule.
Differences between the FMLA and the NJFLA
There are a few key differences between the FMLA and the NJFLA. While the NJFLA previously applied to employers with 50 or more employees, it now applies to employers with 30 or more employees. Unlike the FMLA, the employees do not have to work within a 75-mile radius of each other to be counted. The NJFLA has a lower minimum number of hours worked requirement of 1,000 in the preceding 12 months versus 1,250 under the FMLA. The NJFLA allows workers to take up to 12 weeks off in a 24-month period while the FMLA allows workers to take up to 12 weeks off in a 12-month period.
Both the NJFLA and the FMLA provide leave in some situations that the other law does not offer. For example, the FMLA allows employees to take unpaid leave for up to 12 weeks per year to care for their own serious medical conditions while the NJFLA does not allow workers to take leave for their own medical conditions. The NJFLA allows workers to take time off from work to care for the serious medical condition of someone who is equivalent to a family member while the FMLA is reserved only for taking leave to care for a parent, spouse, or child.
When the laws overlap
If an eligible worker’s leave is covered by both laws, the time that he or she takes will count against both types of leave. For example, both laws allow workers to take time from work to bond with a new child. When they do, their leave allotment will be subtracted from both types of leave simultaneously. When a worker takes 12 weeks off from work to care for his or her own serious health condition, it will be subtracted from his or her FMLA leave allotment. He or she will still have 12 weeks of unpaid leave available under the NJFLA to care for a sick family member or to bond with a new child, however.
In situations when a worker works for a company with 30 to 49 employees in New Jersey and has worked the minimum required hours, he or she will be eligible to take up to 12 weeks off from work in a two-year period to care for a sick family member or to bond with a new baby. However, he or she will not be able to take leave to care for his or her own serious medical condition because the FMLA does not cover employers with fewer than 50 workers.
Get help from Swartz Swidler
The FMLA and the NJFLA can be difficult to understand. It can be especially confusing for employees of companies that are covered by both laws. If you have questions about your leave, contact Swartz Swidler to schedule a consultation by filling out our online contact form.