New Jersey employees who suffer from serious medical conditions or injuries might be forced to miss work so that they can address their conditions and recover. In some cases, employees might also have to take off from work to take care of their immediate family members when they are experiencing serious medical problems. When employees have to take off from work for an extended period to address these types of situations, they might be concerned that their jobs will not be secure. However, many employers in New Jersey are covered by the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and must grant their eligible employees’ leave requests under the FMLA.
The FMLA allows eligible employees with qualifying medical conditions and those whose family members are suffering from serious conditions to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave in 12 months. If you are eligible for FMLA leave and take it, your employer must reinstate you to your job or to one that is similar to it in terms of pay, benefits, and job duties when your leave is over. Your employer must also continue your medical insurance benefits while you are away on leave. Here is what you need to know about qualifying for the FMLA from the attorneys at Swartz Swidler.
Understanding the FMLA
The FMLA was passed by Congress and enacted into law in 1993. The law is designed to provide eligible employees the right to take temporary family and medical leave for up to 12 weeks to care for their own serious medical conditions or those of their immediate family members. The FMLA also allows parents to take time off from work to bond with a newly born, newly adopted, or newly placed foster child or to prepare for a family member’s military deployment. Employees who need to take time off from work to care for a seriously injured military service member with service-related injuries can take up to 26 weeks off from work during 12 months and have their jobs protected. The leave is unpaid, but the FMLA does make employees’ jobs secure while they are on leave.
Covered Employers and Employees
Not all employers are subject to the FMLA. Instead, the FMLA applies to private sector employers with 50 or more employees who work within 75 miles of each other and local, state, and federal employers.
Similarly, not all employees of covered employers are eligible to take leave under the FMLA. Instead, they must meet the following criteria:
- Have been employed with the company for at least 12 months
- Have worked a minimum of 1,250 hours during the past 12 month
- Need leave for a qualifying reason
Reasons for Leave
Leave under the FMLA is available to eligible employees for the following purposes:
- To recover from a serious health condition
- To care for a close family member who has a serious health condition
- To bond with a new baby, adoptive child, or child placed through foster care
- To prepare for a family member’s impending military deployment
- To care for a military family member’s serious service-related injury
Leave can be taken in a single chunk or broken up into smaller periods. Intermittent leave can also be taken throughout the year as long as the total doesn’t exceed 12 weeks.
Rights to Job Reinstatement
Employers must continue paying the employer portion of their employees’ health insurance while they are away on leave. The leave is unpaid, but an employer can require or allow an employee to use their accrued paid time off, vacation, or sick leave while they are taking leave under the FMLA. When the employee’s leave is over, the employee has the right to be reinstated to the same job or to one that is equivalent.
There are a few exceptions to the job reinstatement requirement, including the following:
- When the employee would have lost the job even if they hadn’t taken leave under the FMLA
- When the employee obtained leave under the FMLA fraudulently
- When the employee is a key employee whose salary is in the top 10% of the salaries earned by employees within 75 miles when reinstating them would cause the company substantial economic injury
- When the employee can no longer perform an essential duty of the job; however, the employee might be entitled to reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act in this situation
Other Types of Leave in New Jersey
There are a couple of other types of leave that employees in New Jersey can take, including leave under the New Jersey Family and Medical Leave Act, domestic violence leave, or paid family leave.
Family and Medical Leave
Eligible employees of New Jersey employers with 50 or more employees must allow eligible employees who have worked for the employer for at least 12 months and for at least 1,000 hours during the past 12 months to take 12 weeks off from work every 24 months for the following reasons:
- Bond with a new child
- Care for a family member, including parents-in-law and civil union partners, who have serious health conditions
It’s important to note that New Jersey’s Family and Medical Leave law does not allow employees to take leave for their own serious health conditions. However, this leave can be combined with leave under the FMLA if necessary so that an employee can take more time off from work.
Domestic Violence Leave
New Jersey law also allows victims of domestic violence and the family members of victims of domestic violence or sexual violence to take up to 20 days of leave in 12 months. Covered employers include those who have 25 or more employees. Eligible employees are those who have worked for their employers for at least 12 months for at least 1,000 hours during the last year.
Paid Family Leave
New Jersey has a temporary disability insurance program that pays eligible employees up to two-thirds of their regular wages when they are temporarily disabled and unable to work. The temporary disability insurance program also is used to pay for the state’s paid family leave program. Eligible employees can collect up to two-thirds of their regular salaries for up to six weeks to bond with a new child or care for a family member with a serious health condition.
Get Help from Swartz Swidler
If you believe you are eligible for leave under the FMLA, but your employer has denied your request, talk to the attorneys at Swartz Swidler. You can call us for a free consultation at (856) 685-7420.