New Jersey Family Leave Act, what do you need to know?

The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides up to 12 weeks of job-protected, unpaid leave for all public sector workers and some private sector works who need to tend to a personal or family medical issue.

New Jersey (NJ) is one of several states that expands on the FMLA, specifically in the form of the New Jersey Family Leave Act.

What the FMLA Covers

The FMLA supplies a worker with job-protected time off to tend to their own severe medical condition or that of a family member, like a spouse or parent. Under the FMLA, private businesses with 50 or more workers all living within a 75-mile radius must offer workers who have worked a minimum of 1,250 hours in the previous 12 months with a minimum of 12 weeks of unpaid leave. Neither the months nor the hours need to be sequential to ensure that the worker is eligible for Family Leave in NJ. Organizations must also retain the worker's health care coverage on the same conditions as if the worker had never taken leave.

A worker can qualify for FMLA leave if it is to care for a child after birth, adoption or placement into their family through foster care in the first 12 months after the child comes into the worker's family. FMLA leave can also be taken to get better from the worker's own severe health condition if the condition affects the worker's ability perform an essential function of their job.
The FMLA also allows unpaid leave for qualifying situations due to a worker's family member being sent to active military duty for a contingency operation. The worker may be mandated offer sufficient documentation of the military conditions that qualify for FMLA leave.

How the New Jersey, Family Leave Act, Adds to FMLA

NJ Family Leave Act (NJFLA) offers leave for tending to other people officially described as family members although not for one's own medical problem. This is one way in which the Family Leave Act in NJ differs from the FMLA. The New Jersey Family Leave Act also expands on the FMLA by including a civil union partner and parent-in-law in the definition of the term "family member," considered under the federal law to be just a spouse, child or parent.

Just like the FMLA, the worker must offer suitable documentation of the need to use NJFLA leave 30 days ahead of time or as soon as possible in emergent scenarios. A worker could take up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave in every 24-month period under the NJ Family Leave Act if the company has 50 or more workers on the payroll across the country who have worked at least 20 weeks. The law does not cover workers who are either part of the 7 highest-paid workers in a company or those whose base income is in the highest 5 percent of those salaries of all workers and if their absence could have a considerable adverse influence on the business. The worker asking for leave must have been employed by the company a minimum of 1000 hours in the last year just before the requested leave. Overtime hours may be counted when it comes to the 1000 hours.

Under the NJ Family Leave Act, each qualified worker could take up to 12 weeks of leave during a specified 24-month period. When looking after a family member with a severe health condition, a worker may take leave that is not continual, possibly in the form of an intermittent leave or a decreased work schedule. Occasionally, an employer’s validation is required for this kind of unpaid leave arrangement. A leave granted due to the worker's disability is covered only by the federal FMLA and may be combined with an added leave for the care of a child or parent under the Family Leave Act in NJ.

Given that the leave supplied for under FMLA and NJFLA may cover the same event, concurrent running of leave under both acts must often be established. For instance, an individual hurt at work which is not able to work for 12 weeks as a result of his or her own disability would deplete the 12 weeks of unpaid leave under FMLA. If, on the last day of the worker's own disability, their spouse is seriously injured – the worker is then eligible for 12 weeks unpaid leave under New Jersey Family Leave Act. However, in a scenario where a worker must offer care to a child for a significant medical condition and the 12 weeks of unpaid leave under both FMLA and NJFLA would run simultaneously.

A different issue that often occurs is if a company may force worker to use paid leave time concurrent with the unpaid leave supplied for by FMLA and NJFLA. A company may mandate a worker to take paid time off, such as accrued sick and vacation time, during the unpaid leave period. Under the Family Leave Act in NJ, a company must be consistent regarding exhaustion of all accumulated paid leave.

Paid Leave in New Jersey

Some workers in New Jersey are also able to collect pay while taking time off thanks to the Paid Family Leave Act, an add-on to the state’s Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) law.

The Paid Family Leave Act applies to organizations with workers that are paid either $143 or higher per week for 20 consecutive weeks or $7,200 or more over the previous 12 months. Organizations must permit up to 6 weeks paid leave to a qualified worker who is looking after a family member with a severe health condition, or while tending to a child within 12 months of birth or placement for adoption.

Workers can get up to two-thirds of their weekly pay, limited to $524 weekly, in payments from New Jersey. Just like the NJFLA, the Paid Family Leave Act will not include a worker who is taking time off to tend to their own medical condition. Workers must supply a minimum of 30 days notice, or they will lose two weeks of paid leave, unless the inability to supply notice was due to unforeseen conditions. Finally, within the Paid Family Leave Act, if the worker has outstanding accrued paid leave, the company may mandate that they deplete up to two weeks of that time before getting any monies under the New Jersey Paid Family Leave Act.

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