Qualifying employees who work for covered employers might be eligible to take leave under both the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and New Jersey’s Family Leave Act (FLA). New Jersey’s state law is more generous than the FMLA because it offers paid leave while the FMLA offers unpaid leave. Employees can combine leave under both acts to maximize the total amount of time they take off from work for qualifying reasons. Here is what to know about the New Jersey FLA and the FMLA and how they are calculated from the employment law firm of Swartz Swidler.
Coverage and Eligibility under the New Jersey FLA and the FMLA
The federal FMLA covers employers that have a minimum of 50 employees who work within 75 miles of each other. By contrast, the New Jersey FLA covers any employer in New Jersey with 30 or more employees, and the employees do not have to work within a specific radius of each other.
To be eligible under the FMLA, an employee must have worked for a covered employer for at least 1,250 hours and at least 12 months before the date of leave. Under the New Jersey FLA, an eligible employee must have worked at least 20 weeks and earned a minimum of $240 per week to be eligible. New Jersey employees pay into two types of insurance under the FLA, including family leave insurance (FLI) and temporary disability insurance (TDI).
Reasons for Leave
The FMLA allows eligible employees to take leave from work to care for their own serious health conditions, the serious health conditions of their immediate family members, to bond with a new child, or to take care of issues surrounding an immediate family member’s impending military deployment or a service-related injury.
The FLI program provides paid family leave to eligible employees who need to care for the serious medical conditions of their family members or other loved ones, which includes people with whom they are not biologically related. People can also take leave to take care of issues related to domestic violence or sexual assaults suffered by them or a family member. FLI leave can also be taken to bond with a new child, but workers can’t use it to care for their own serious medical conditions.
Amount of Leave
Both the FMLA and the FLA allow eligible workers to take up to 12 weeks off from work in 12 months for a qualifying reason. Previously, the FLA only allowed eligible employees to take 12 weeks of leave in 24 months, but that was changed beginning in 2020. Leave under both laws can also be taken intermittently instead of a single block.
Paid vs. Unpaid
Leave under the FMLA is unpaid. By contrast, FLI leave provides 85% of a worker’s average weekly wages up to a maximum of $993 in 2022. This maximum amount is adjusted annually. Under the FMLA, employers can require employees to use up their paid time off while they are out on FMLA leave. By contrast, the FLA allows employees to decide whether to use paid time off before they access their FLI leave.
Contributions for Leave
New Jersey employees contribute to the FLI and TDI programs through deductions from their paychecks. Workers pay 0.16% of their incomes up to $134,900 for family leave insurance. They also pay 0.26% of their income for temporary disability insurance.
Unlike FLI, TDI does allow eligible employees to take paid leave to care for their own disability, illness, or injury as long as it is not work-related. Like FLI, TDI provides paid leave of 85% of an employee’s average weekly wage for up to a maximum of $993 per week.
Combining Leave Benefits
Some employees are eligible under both the FMLA and the New Jersey FLA. For example, an employee who has worked for an employer with at least 50 employees working within 75 miles for at least 1,250 hours during the past 12 months would be eligible to take leave under both acts as long as they had a qualifying reason. For example, a new parent might choose to take paid leave under the New Jersey Family Leave Act followed by unpaid leave under the FMLA to have more time to bond with their new baby.
Employers must designate that leave taken by employees is qualified FLA leave. An employer might ask an employee to sign a statement to certify that the leave is for a qualifying reason and can also ask the employee to get a certification of the need for leave from a doctor if it is to care for a seriously ill loved one.
Continuation of Benefits and Job Reinstatement
Under both laws, employers must continue their employees’ health insurance benefits while they are out on leave from work. Employees who return to work following their leave must also be reinstated to their former positions or to jobs that are substantially similar in terms of pay and duties.
Speak With an Attorney
If you need to take leave from work under either the FMLA or the New Jersey Family Leave Act, you might want to talk to an attorney at Swartz Swidler to understand your rights under both of these laws. We can explain how to structure your leave so that you derive the most benefit. Call us at 856-685-7420 to schedule a free consultation.