New Jersey Family Leave Act
If you or a family member becomes sick and you need time off from work, or you need time off because of the birth of your child (or adoption) you generally may take that time off without risking losing your job. The federal Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (“FMLA”) and the New Jersey Family Leave Act (“NJFLA”) both provide up to 12 weeks of uncompensated job-protected leave for specific reasons. The coverage is roughly the same under federal and state laws, but there are some notable differences.
Your employer should not discriminate or retaliate against you for taking leave under either law or interfere with your ability to take that protected leave. At Phillips & Associates, our New Jersey employment lawyers can help you bring a lawsuit for damages if you experience an adverse employment decision as a result of taking the leave to which you are entitled.Understanding the New Jersey Family Leave Act
Employees are eligible for leave under the New Jersey Family Leave Act if they have worked for a covered business that has at least 50 employees for at least 1,000 hours in the last year. The 50 employees must have been working for at least 20 weeks in the year when the leave is to be taken or in the prior year, and employees located outside New Jersey count. This is a slightly smaller hourly requirement than what is required to take leave under the FMLA (which is 1,250 hours). The leave is job-protected but not compensated, and it is only available for specified reasons.
You may take an unpaid leave to care for your child after their birth or if a child has been placed with you for adoption or foster care. You may also take an unpaid leave to care for a spouse, child, or parent with a serious health condition.
Because civil unions are recognized in the State of New Jersey, the New Jersey Family Leave Act will apply; that is, unpaid leave must also be granted to allow an employee to care for his/her civil union partner or eligible same-sex domestic partner who has a serious health condition.
NJFLA defines a "serious health condition" as an illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition which requires:
1) Inpatient care in a hospital, hospice, or residential medical care facility; or
2) Continuing medical treatment or continuing supervision by a health care provider, such as residential medical care facility, hospice, or hospital.
However, the NJFLA does not provide time off from your job based on a disability, unlike the FMLA. In some cases, you may be able to use the FMLA leave for a disability, while keeping the New Jersey Family Leave Act time for the birth of a child or a spouse or parent's serious illness.Intermittent Leave
Eligible employees of covered employers may take a maximum of 12 weeks of continuous leave during a 24-month term. However, if you are caring for someone who has a serious health condition, you may take an intermittent leave. For the purposes of caring for a spouse, partner, child, or parent, your New Jersey Family Leave Act leave may be used intermittently or to work a reduced workweek. In other words, you do not need to use it all at once, and you may take it even a day or a few hours at a time, such as to take your sick loved one to the doctor.Exception
There is an important exception to the NJFLA. Your employer may deny you leave if your base salary is within the highest 5% of the employees or the seven most highly paid employees, and your absence is going to significantly adversely affect business. For example, if you are the Chief Technology Officer of a technology company, your salary is one of the top seven paid positions in the company, and your absence would substantially hinder the company's progress on its projects, you may be denied leave. You are supposed to be given proper notice that you are within this category of earners.Damages
Among other things, if you successfully establish that you were wrongfully denied leave time, you may be entitled to the leave time as well as:
- Damages for pain and emotional distress,
- Out-of-pocket expenses, and
- Restoration of benefits that you should have received.
If you are eligible for leave under the New Jersey Family Leave Act, you should be able to take this leave without fear of discrimination or reprisal. However, you should understand that the leave is protected, but the law does not guarantee or require that you be returned to exactly the same job after the leave. You may be returned to a comparable job.
The New Jersey attorneys at Phillips & Associates are aggressive and knowledgeable advocates for employees who have been subjected to discrimination or retaliation as a result of taking job-protected leave. You should contact us as soon as you believe that you may have a claim. Contact us at (609) 436-9087 or through our online form to set up an appointment with an FMLA attorney. We help workers in Passaic, Bergen, Morris, Essex, Union, Hudson, Somerset, Middlesex, Monmouth, Mercer, Burlington and Camden Counties.
PHILLIPS & ASSOCIATES
100 Overlook Center, 2nd Floor
Princeton, NJ 08540