By Francine Foner, Esq., and Ty Hyderally, Esq.
The recently enacted American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, signed by President Biden on March 11, 2021, does not extend into 2021 the emergency paid leave provisions under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). However, New Jersey employees who have had to take leave from employment due to COVID-19 related issues, such as for their own or a family member’s health issue, or school or daycare closings, will continue to be able to take paid leave as long as New Jersey remains in a declared state of emergency.
New Jersey’s Family Leave Act (NJFLA), together with New Jersey Family Leave Insurance (NJFLI), will continue to provide some relief for New Jersey employees who need to take leave during a declared state of emergency. As discussed in our July 4, 2020 blog, on February 19, 2020 (A3975) and April 14, 2020 (S2374), Governor Murphy signed into law provisions expanding the protections afforded by New Jersey’s paid family leave program. (Great News for New Jersey Employees – Major Expansions in the Paid Family Leave Program). The New Jersey Legislature expanded the NJFLA to allow eligible employees to take leave during a declared state of emergency to: (1) care for a family member, or someone who is the equivalent of family, who has been isolated or quarantined at the direction or recommendation of a public health authority or health care provider because of suspected exposure to a communicable disease; or (2) provide required care or treatment for a child if the child’s school or place of care is closed by order of a public official due to an epidemic of a communicable disease or other public health emergency. While the employer is not required to pay for this leave, 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.
On March 1, 2021, the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights (DCR) published proposed rule amendments incorporating the changes to the NJFLA enacted by recent legislation, including the 2020 amendments related to leave during a public health emergency. Some of the proposed rule amendments relating to NJFLA leave taken due to a public health emergency, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, are:
53 N.J.R. 352.
The proposed rule amendments that are ultimately adopted may differ from the initial version, based upon comments which the DCR receives, which may be submitted by the public until April 30, 2021. While most of the proposed changes are favorable for individual employees, there are also proposed amendments which attempt to balance the needs of employers to maintain a safe working environment for their staff who remain in the workplace.
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