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  • 02/26/2019

    New Jersey's Expansion of Family Leave Entitlements

    Client Alert

    Written by: Susan L. Swatski

    On February 19, 2019, Governor Murphy signed another sweeping piece of legislation into law that dramatically impacts employers and employees in New Jersey. Employers will need to substantially revise their human resources policies to comply with the new law. Amendment A-3975 expands entitlements under New Jersey's Family Leave Act (“FLA”), Family Leave Insurance (FLI) law, Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) and the domestic or sexual violence safety leave law.   

    Care For A Newborn Or A Sick Loved One

    For leave periods beginning on or after July 1, 2020, the amount of weekly FLI and TDI benefits will increase from 65 percent to 85 percent of the employee’s weekly wage; the benefit caps out at $860 per week, an increase from $650 per week. Under FLI or TDI, the maximum leave period doubles from six (6) to twelve (12) consecutive weeks of paid leave in a 12-month period and intermittent leave increases from 42 to 56 days. Employers are reminded that employees' jobs are only legally protected if their employer is subject to the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which covers employers with more than fifty (50) employees within a seventy-five (75) mile radius of the worksite. FLI and TDI do not provide job protection beyond anti-retaliation for taking or requesting to utilize TDI or FLI benefits.  

    Expansion Of The Reasons Employees May Take Leave

    Employees are now permitted to take leave to receive treatment or to attend proceedings arising out of being a victim of domestic violence or sexual violence.  The law also expands the definition of a “family member” to include siblings, in-laws, grandparents, grandchildren, other blood relatives and any individual who can be shown to have the equivalent of a family relationship.  The Amendment also expands permissible leave to include foster care and surrogacy. Previously the law only covered children, parents, spouses, domestic partners or civil union partners. These expansions increase an employee’s ability to be eligible for FLI.

    Elimination Of The Unpaid Waiting Period To Receive Benefits

    Effective July 1, 2019, the Amendment will eliminate the unpaid waiting period between the employee’s last day of work and the employee’s first entitlement to payment for TDI and FLI. Benefits will be payable on the first day of leave. TDI will not be paid simultaneously with paid sick leave or other paid time off. A significant change for many employers from their current practice is that the Amendment prohibits employers from requiring that employees use their paid leave, up to two (2) weeks, before the payment of benefits.  Employers, however, may give employees a choice as to whether to use other paid time off before the employee uses FLI or TDI benefits.    

    Penalties

    Employers who fail to provide notifications and disclosures will be fined up to $1,000. Employers who retaliate against an employee for utilizing any benefit under FLI or TDI will be fined $2,000 and each subsequent violation will be fined up to $5,000. Employers are also required to reinstate the employee to the same or equivalent position held prior to the retaliatory action, and to pay compensation for the employee’s lost wages, benefits and payment of the employee’s counsel fees and costs.  

    Employees Will Pay For These Benefits

    The costs associated with the benefits expansion are funded entirely through an employee wage tax assessment. Employers will not be subjected to any new tax assessment. The employee paycheck line item "NJ SUI/SDI Tax" includes withholdings for FLI and TDI.  

    Recommendations

    Employers should consult with employment counsel to ensure compliance with A-3975, including providing training for their human resources professionals. Be sure to watch the State’s Department of Labor website or contact employment counsel to obtain the posters that will be required when the Amendment takes effect. If you have any questions regarding whether your current policies comply with the Amendment or if you require training, please contact Susan L. Swatski, Esq. at sswatski@hillwallack.com.

    ©2019 Hill Wallack LLP. All rights reserved. Please contact Hill Wallack for permission to reprint. Notice: The purpose of this Client Alert is to identify select developments that may be of interest to readers. The information contained herein is abridged and summarized from various sources, accuracy and completeness of which cannot be assured. This Client Alert should not be construed as legal advice or opinion, and is not a substitute for the advice of counsel.