On April 14, 2020, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed legislation that amends the New Jersey Family Leave Act (“NJFLA”) and the Temporary Disability Benefits Law (“NJTDBL”). The amendments are intended to expand job protections for employees who need to take leave and receive benefits due to COVID-19.
The legislation, while signed into law by Governor Murphy on April 14, 2020, is retroactively effective to March 25, 2020. This is expected to impact primarily the start date at which employees will be able to retroactively claim family leave and temporary disability benefits.
Under the amendments, employees now qualify for protected leave under the NJFLA if, as a result of a state of emergency (or when indicated by a public health authority) caused by an epidemic of a communicable disease, an employee is:
- Required to care for their child whose school or place of child care is closed by order of a public official due to the public health emergency;
- Necessary to care for a family member that is subject to any declaration by a public health authority, including a mandatory quarantine order, as a result of illness caused by the communicable disease or known/suspected exposure to same; or
- Prompted to care for a family member who, under the recommendation of a health care provider or public health authority, voluntarily self-quarantines due to suspected exposure to a communicable disease.
The NJFLA allows for protected leave of up to twelve (12) weeks in a twenty-four (24) month period.
An employee asking for NJFLA leave for COVID-19 related reasons can be required by their employer to provide verification supporting the epidemic-related reason requiring the family leave. Taking each of the abovementioned qualifying reasons in turn, sufficient verification is as follows:
- For leave being taken to provide care to a child an employee must provide the date of the closure and reason for the closure of the school or child care facility;
- For leave being taken because of mandatory self-quarantine of a family member, the employee must provide the date of the issuance of the determination and the likely duration of the determination; or
- For leave being taken as a result of a recommendation that a family member undergo self-quarantine, the employee must provide the date of the recommendation, the probable duration of the condition and the medical or other facts regarding the condition.
Under the amendments, the NJTDBL definitions have been expanded. Specifically, the amendments make it so that during a governor-declared state of emergency or when indicated to be needed by a public health authority, the definition of a “disability” includes:
- An illness caused by an epidemic of a communicable disease, a known or suspected exposure to same, or efforts to prevent spread of the disease, which requires in-home care or treatment of the employee as a result of:
- the determination by public health authority or health care provider that the employee is at risk of jeopardizing the health of others; and
- the direction of the authority or provider that the employee be quarantined due to suspected exposure.
Moreover, the definition of “family temporary disability leave” has been amended to include in-home care or treatment of a family member under the aforementioned circumstances.
A Closing Note
Because the situation is dynamic, you should check back for the latest developments and additional guidance on these topics. Please visit our COVID-19 Resource Center, here, for all of the latest COVID-19 related news and legal updates.
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