On February 19, 2019, Governor Phil Murphy signed into law Assembly Bill 3975, significantly changing New Jersey’s paid family leave laws.
This new law expands who is eligible for job-protected leave to care for family members, newborns, adopted and fostered children, and victims of domestic or sexual violence, as well as what benefits eligible employees are entitled to receive while providing such care. Based on these significant changes to the law, employers will need to reevaluate the laws that apply to their workforce and revise their policies to be in compliance.
Assembly Bill 3975 amends the following New Jersey laws:
New Jersey Family Leave Act (“NJFLA”), which provides job protection for the care of a family member or a new child.
New Jersey Security and Financial Empowerment Act (“NJ SAFE Act”), which provides job protection for leave taken due to domestic or sexual violence, either where the employee is the victim or employee is caring for a family member who is a victim.
New Jersey Family Leave Insurance (“NJFLI”), which provides wage replacement for the care of a family member or a new child.
New Jersey Temporary Disability Insurance (“NJTDI”), which provides wage replacement for an employee’s sickness or injury that prevents them from working.
SUMMARY OF CHANGES TO EACH LAW
The New Jersey Family Leave Act
Currently, employers with 50 or more employees are subject to NJFLA and must provide up to twelve weeks of job-protected leave to eligible employees to care for family members and newborns. A-3975 changes this law by expanding the definition of an “employer,” so that as of June 30, 2019, employers with 30 or more employees will be required to provide employees with job-protected leave under the NJFLA.
In addition to the expansion of the definition of employer, the law immediately expands the definitions of “child,” “parent,” and “family leave” to include parent-child relationships established through foster care or pursuant to a written agreement between a parent and a gestational carrier. Leave taken for the birth, placement in foster care, or adoption of a child may now be taken on an intermittent basis.
The legislation further expands “family member” to include parent-in-law, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, domestic partner, or any other individual related by blood to the employee and any other individual with whom the employee shows has a close association (the equivalent of a family relationship). As a result, eligible employees will be permitted to take leave to care for these newly covered family members.
The New Jersey Security and Financial Empowerment Act
Under the NJ SAFE Act, employers with 25 or more employees must provide up to 20 days of unpaid job-protected leave in a 12-month period when the employee or his or her family member has been the victim of a domestic violence incident or a sexually violent offense. As a result of the new law, employees on NJ SAFE Act leave may now claim NJFLI benefits. Additionally, more employees may be eligible for such leave, as the law revises the definition of “family member” to match the expanded definition under the NJFLA.
New Jersey Family Leave Insurance and New Jersey Temporary Disability Insurance
For leave beginning on or after July 1, 2020, A-3975 increases NJFLI and NJTDI wage replacement payments to 85% of an employee’s pay, up to $860 per week. In addition, NJFLI will be available for up to 12 weeks or 56 intermittent days in a 12-month period. Employees will also be entitled to receive NJFLI benefits on an intermittent basis, including for the care of a newborn, or recently placed foster child or adopted child, provided they give their employer at least 15 days’ notice (if possible), make a reasonable effort to schedule the leave to not disrupt company operation, and if possible provide a regular schedule of days to be taken. Significantly, employer policies may continue to allow the use of accrued paid time off in lieu of collecting NJFLI, but may no longer require that employees use such time (previously, the law allowed employers to require up to 14 days of accrued PTO).
The new law also adds an anti-retaliation provision to NJFLI, and prohibits any adverse action taken with respect to employment for requesting or taking NJFLI, “including retaliation by refusing to restore the employee following a period of leave.” An employer that violates this anti-retaliation provision may be subject to fines up to $5,000, may be required to reinstate the employee and may be liable to the employee for back pay, benefits and attorney’s fees.
Employees will also benefit from the law’s focus on expediting NJFLI benefit claims. As of July 1, 2019, benefits will be payable to employees on the first day of leave, without a one-week waiting period. By October 4, 2019, employees will be allowed to notify their employer in advance of their need for family leave, and file up to 60 days before the date the leave is scheduled to begin. If a claim is filed more than 30 days before the leave begins, benefits will be available upon commencement of leave.
CONTACT US for assistance revising your family leave and payroll policies to be compliant with New Jersey law or if you have any other questions.