By Francine Foner, Esq. and Ty Hyderally, Esq.
Governor Murphy recently signed into law, amendments to New Jersey’s paid family leave program which substantially expanded eligibility, the length of leave, and amount of available benefits. The amendments are contained in two bills, signed into law on February 19, 2020 (A3975) and April 14, 2020 (S2374). Some important provisions of these recent amendments expanding protections afforded by New Jersey’s paid family leave program did not begin until July 1, 2020. The provisions which commenced on July 1, 2020 include doubling the number of weeks for Family Leave Insurance (“FLI”) from 6 to 12 consecutive weeks in a 12- month period. In addition, starting on July 1, 2020, New Jersey employees are able to take up to 56 days of intermittent leave within a 12-month period, vs. the prior limit of 42 days of intermittent leave within a 12-month period.
Also as of July 1, 2020, the amount that employees can receive in weekly benefits under New Jersey’s Temporary Disability Insurance and FLI has been increased to 85 percent of their weekly wage (an increase from two-thirds of their weekly wage), with a maximum benefit, based upon State averages, of $881 per week, up from $667. Also, on July 1, 2020, FLI benefits became available to employees taking certain leave arising from domestic or sexual violence under the Security and Financial Empowerment Act (“SAFE Act”).
The other provisions of A3975 and S2374, went into effect on February 19, 2020 and March 25, 2020, respectively. A3975 adds anti-retaliation provisions for employers with over 30 employers and expands the types of family members for whom leave may be taken to include siblings, in-laws, grandparents, grandchildren, other blood relatives, and any other individuals who can be shown to have the equivalent of a family relationship. This bill also expands coverage for family temporary disability leave to seek medical attention, counseling, or legal assistance needed by a victim of domestic or sexual violence, or to care for a family member who was such a victim.
S2374 responds to the unique circumstances created by the COVID-19 outbreak, by expanding the circumstances under which family leave may be taken to include caring for family members during a public health emergency due to an epidemic of a communicable disease. Under this amendment, New Jersey employees may take family leave to: (1) care for a child due to the closure of the child’s school or childcare due to the epidemic or other public health emergency; or (2) care of a family member under mandatory quarantine due to illness or suspected exposure to such communicable disease, or as a result of a public health authority’s efforts to prevent the spread of a communicable disease.
As reflected on New Jersey’s official website, Governor Murphy stated with respect to the initial amendments that, “No one should ever be forced to choose between caring for a family member and earning a paycheck. By providing the most expansive paid family leave time and benefits in the nation, we are ensuring that New Jerseyans no longer have to face such a decision and that working families are treated with the respect and dignity they deserve. This comprehensive paid family leave program, coupled with the newly passed earned sick leave and minimum wage increase, are fundamental elements in building a stronger and fairer New Jersey for all working families.” (https://www.nj.gov/governor/news/news/562019/20190219a.shtml). Similarly, with respect to the subsequent amendments aimed at addressing leave issues arising due to the COVID-19 crisis, Governor Murphy stated: “New Jerseyans should not have to make a decision between caring for a loved one with COVID-19 and keeping their job. Our state 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.” (https://www.nj.gov/governor/news/news/562020/20200414d.shtml).
Certainly a good message for employees in New Jersey as we safely observe 4th of July celebrations!!
Happy 4th of July to all.
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