New Jersey Remains At The Forefront Of Paid Family Leave Push
June 29, 2017
By: Sally A. Sattan, Esq., Ty Hyderally, Esq., and Jacqueline Larsen
In 2008, New Jersey enacted the New Jersey Family Leave Insurance Law (NJFLI), becoming the second state in the country, after California, to offer paid family leave to eligible NJ workers. Eligible workers include employees of both public and private employers, who have worked at least 20 calendar weeks and have earned at least $168 per week or $8,400 in a ‘base year” period. Under the NJFLI, a covered employee may receive monetary benefits, for up to 6 weeks within a 12-month period, to either bond with a newborn or newly adopted child or to care for a family member with a serious health condition.
On June 19, 2017, a committee of the New Jersey Assembly, in an 8-2 vote, went a step further to expand the NJFLI by recommending the passage of Assembly Bill, A-4972, (N.J. 2017) (the “Bill”). The new bill would increase the current weekly benefit amount from $633 to $932 and would double the maximum number of weeks of family leave benefits from six to twelve, which could be taken on an intermittent basis. This bill would also include eligible employees who care for a family member who has been either a victim of domestic violence or a sexually violent offense.
Although the bill is expected to pass both the full Assembly and the Senate, some business owners argue the bill could cause staffing issues and lessen competition with their neighbors. Yet, proponents of the bill argue that employees who are forced to work during a stressful time invariably results in lower productivity and decreased job satisfaction and morale. They further argue that allowing employees to take paid family leave actually promotes employee loyalty and longevity. Indeed, the EEOC in its Enforcement Guidance entitled “Unlawful Disparate Treatment of Workers With Caregiving Responsibilities,” found that “workplace flexibility enhances employee satisfaction and job performance,” and that employers can save millions of dollars in employee retention costs by adopting flexible workplace polices. In view of that, many national employee advocacy groups consider the NJFLI and other similar state laws to be significant in addressing the work-family conflict, which so many employees face or will face.
Following the passage of the NJFLI, Rhode Island, Washington, New York, and the District of Columbia have enacted laws that provide paid family leave for employees who need time off to care for a new child or a sick family member. On the federal level, the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act (FAMILY Act), which was reintroduced into Congress on February 7, 2017, would create a nationwide insurance program that offers up to 12 weeks of leave for family and medical purposes with partial pay. With the push for national paid family leave gaining national attention, perhaps Bill A-4972 is the impetus to accelerate that push.
 A “covered “employer” under the NJFLI is an employing unit, formed for profit or nonprofit purposes, which has one or more individuals in covered employment (other than agricultural and domestic) and has paid remuneration of at least $1,000 for such employment in a calendar year. N.J.S.A. 43:21-19(h).
 The “Base Year” is the 52 weeks immediately before the week in which the family leave began.
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