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New Jersey Family Leave Act Expands to Smaller Employers

By Frank A. Custode, Esq.

The New Jersey Family Leave Act allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in any 24-month period for the birth or adoption of a child or the serious health condition of a covered family member.  On February 19, 2019, Governor Phil Murphy signed Assembly Bill 3975 into law which, among other, expands the scope of the New Jersey Family Leave Act. This new legislation has significant ramifications for smaller employers in the State of New Jersey and further expands employee entitlements in the workplace.

Most significantly, effective June 30, 2019, the New Jersey Family Leave Act applies to all employers that employ “30 or more employees for each working day during each of 20 or more calendar workweeks in the then current or immediately preceding calendar year.”   Previously, the New Jersey Family Leave Act only applied to employers with 50 or more employees.

In addition, the new legislation expands the definitions of “family member” and “child.”  Under the new legislation, “family member” now includes parent-in-law, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, domestic partner, “any other individual related by blood to the employee” and “any other individual that the employee shows to have a close association with the employee which is the equivalent of a family relationship” and “child” now includes foster child or “a child who becomes the child of a parent pursuant to a valid agreement between the parent and a gestational carrier.”

Other significant changes include: the expansion of the use of a reduced leave schedule from 24 consecutive weeks to 12 consecutive months and the permitted use of intermittent leave for the birth, adoption or foster care placement of a “child” whereas prior to this legislation, intermittent leave was only permitted by employer approval.

The new legislation also includes significant expansion of the New Jersey Temporary Disability Benefits Law as well as the New Jersey Security and Financial Empowerment Act.  In light of the above, smaller employers should review and update their policies and handbooks to comply with this legislation.  And, employees should make sure they have a detailed understanding of their increased rights in the workplace.

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