Certain New Jersey employees might be able to take time off from their jobs under a few laws, including the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the New Jersey Family Leave Act (NJFLA), or the New Jersey Paid Family Leave Act. These laws offer important protection to workers who need to take time off from work in some situations, including being able to return to their jobs or similar positions once their period of leave is over. Here is some information from the law firm of Swartz Swidler about the New Jersey family and medical leave laws you should know.
Federal Family and Medical Leave Act
The FMLA is a federal law that was signed into law by former President Bill Clinton in 1992. This law provides up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave to eligible employees who need to take time off from work to address their serious medical conditions or the serious medical conditions of their immediate family members.
Not all employers are covered by the FMLA, and employees must also meet specific eligibility criteria to take job-protected leave under this law. Covered employers under the FMLA include employers with 50 or more employees working within 75 miles of each other.
To be eligible to take leave under the FMLA, employees must meet the following criteria:
- Work for a covered employer
- Have worked for the employer for 12 or more months before the date of the requested leave
- Have worked at least 1,250 hours for the covered employer during the year preceding the leave
- Have a qualifying need for leave
To take leave under the FMLA, your reason must also qualify. The FMLA allows employees to take leave for the following purposes:
- To address their serious medical conditions
- To care for a family member’s serious health condition
- To take maternity or paternity leave after having a baby
- To take maternity or paternity leave to bond with a newly adopted child or newly placed foster care child
- Qualifying exigency related to a child, parent, or spouse preparing for military deployment
- Leave to take care of a military service member’s service-related injury
Leave under the FMLA is job-protected, which means an employer must return the employee to their job or to a position that is substantially similar in pay and terms once the employee’s leave ends. However, FMLA leave is unpaid leave. Employers can require employees to use accrued vacation hours and sick leave. While an employee is away on leave under the FMLA, the employer must continue paying the employer portion of any employer-provided medical insurance.
New Jersey Family Leave Act
The NJFLA has some similarities to and differences from the FMLA. Under the NJFLA, covered employers are any that have a minimum of 30 employees. This was changed from the previous threshold of 50 employees beginning on Jan. 1, 2020, after the passage of NJ A3975. Unlike the FMLA, the NJFLA doesn’t have a radius requirement for the employer’s employees to work within 75 miles of each other.
To qualify under the NJFLA, employees must meet the following criteria:
- Work for a covered employer
- Have worked for the covered employer for 12 or more months before the need for leave
- Have worked at least 1,000 hours during the 12 months preceding the date of leave
The NJFLA allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of time off from work for a qualifying reason every 24 months.
The qualifying reasons for taking leave under the NJFLA are also slightly different. Unlike the FMLA, employees can’t take leave under the NJFLA to address their own serious medical conditions. However, they can take leave for the following reasons:
- Prepare for a baby’s upcoming birth
- Take time to bond with a newly born, newly placed, or newly adopted child
- Complete the required steps for adoption or foster care placement
- Care for the serious health condition of a child, parent, spouse, or partner
Like the FMLA, leave under the NJFLA is job-protected but unpaid.
If an eligible employee needs to take time off from work because of their own serious health condition, they won’t be able to take leave under the NJFLA. However, if their employer is also covered by the FMLA, the employee could instead take leave for that purpose under the FMLA.
New Jersey Paid Family Leave Act
New Jersey’s Paid Family Leave Act established the Family Leave Insurance program in New Jersey, which provides participating and qualifying employees up to 12 weeks of paid leave benefits from work for qualifying reasons. Employees must participate by contributing through withdrawals from their paychecks and are eligible for up to 85% of their weekly wages up to a capped amount during their leave. The qualifying reasons for taking paid leave include the following:
- Care for a newly born, newly placed, or newly adopted child
- Care for a spouse, child, parent, or partner who is suffering from a serious medical condition
Consult an Employment Lawyer
If you qualify for leave under more than one of these laws, your employer must provide you with leave under the one that provides the most benefits. To learn more about your rights under the family and medical leave laws in South Jersey, contact Swartz Swidler by calling (856) 685-7420.