By: Chantal N. Guerriero, Esq. and Ty Hyderally, Esq.
A new Bill which may impact New Jersey employees during the COVID-19 pandemic was approved by the New Jersey Legislature. As with the majority of New Jersey’s recent COVID-19 relief efforts, the bill seeks to alleviate certain issues that have begun to arise in the employment setting during the pandemic. In Governor Murphy’s own words, “New Jerseyans should not have to make a decision between caring for a loved one with COVID-19 and keeping their job.” In reflecting upon the enactment of the latest Bills, Governor Murphy further noted, “[New Jersey] is already home to the nation’s most comprehensive Family Leave Act, and it’s only right that we expand these protections to meet the unprecedented health crisis we are facing.”
Senate Bill 2374 (“SB 2374”) expands the New Jersey “Family Leave Act” (“FLA”) to include leave from employment so that an employee may provide care to a family member made necessary by an epidemic of a communicable disease, a known or suspected exposure to a communicable disease, or efforts to prevent the spread of a communicable disease which:
(a) requires in-home care or treatment of a child due to the closure of the school or place of care of the child of the employee, by order of a public official due to the epidemic or other public health emergency;
(b) prompts the issuance by a public health authority of a determination, including by mandatory quarantine, requiring or imposing responsive or prophylactic measures as a result of illness caused by an epidemic of a communicable disease or known or suspected exposure to the communicable disease because the presence in the community of a family member in need of care by the employee, would jeopardize the health of others; or
(c) results in the recommendation of a health care provider or public health authority, that a family member in need of care by the employee voluntarily undergo self-quarantine as a result of suspected exposure to a communicable disease because the presence in the community of that family member in need of care by the employee, would jeopardize the health of others.
As with the FLA prior to these latest amendments, employers may require a certification by a duly licensed healthcare provider which specifically describes the nature of the leave set forth in (a), (b), or (c), as well as the associated dates required for such leave.
Most importantly in the employment setting, these amendments to the FLA will allow employees forced to care for family members during the COVID-19 outbreak to take up to 12 weeks of family leave in a 24-month period without losing their jobs. Thus, employees forced to take FLA leave in the coming weeks of the pandemic may have a legal cause of action if they are terminated or retaliated against while attempting to take or taking FLA leave for any of the pandemic-related reasons set forth above.
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