Q: How Much Paid Sick Leave Can You Get?
A: New Jersey law requires *most* employers to give employees accrued sick leave, regardless of whether the employee is full-time or part-time. The Earned Sick Leave law specifies that as they work, employees earn one (1) hour of sick leave time for every thirty (30) hours work. The maximum amount of sick leave employees are entitled to is forty (40) hours per benefit year. Employers can provide additional time, above and beyond the Earned Sick Leave Law, should they so choose. Additionally, some employers choose to advance employees with the full forty (40) hours of sick leave at the beginning of each benefit year.
Q: Can I Use My Earned Sick Leave to Care for Family Members?
A: Yes. You can use your paid sick leave to attend to your own health or to attend to any close family member’s physical injury or mental health. The law also provides for the use of earned sick leave to address domestic or sexual violence, attend a child’s school-related meeting, conference, or event or take care of children when school or child care is closed due to an epidemic or public health emergency.
Q: What Happens to Unused Earned Sick Leave?
A: An employee may carry over up to forty (40) hours of unused earned sick leave to the next benefit year. However, employers are only required to let an employee use up to forty (40) hours of earned sick leave per benefit year. Some employees may choose to pay an employee for unused earned sick leave at the end of the benefit year (however, this is not required).
Q: How Does Medical Leave Work in New Jersey?
A: When an employee needs to take more than a sick day here and there and requires longer periods of time off, the employee may be eligible for leave under Federal and/or State law.
Federal employment law includes the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), which provides up to twelve (12) weeks of unpaid leave in a twelve (12) month period for employees to recover from their own illnesses or care for family members who require care, including newborn and newly adopted children. Intermittent leave is also available in certain instances. In order to qualify, the employee must work for an employer that has fifty (50) or more employees within seventy-five (75) miles. Further, the employee must have worked a minimum of twelve (12) months with the employer and a minimum of 1,250 hours of work in the year prior to making the request.
New Jersey has its own counterpart to the FMLA, with a few significant variations. The New Jersey Family Leave Act (“NJFLA”) provides an employee with up to twelve (12) weeks of unpaid leave in a twenty-four (24) month period for employees to care for family members who require care, including for the birth of a child or adoption. Additionally, the NJFLA allows an employee to take time to provide required care or treatment for a child during a state of emergency if their school or place of care is closed due to a public health emergency. An important difference is that that NJFLA does not cover an employee’s own serious medical condition. Intermittent leave is also available in certain instances. In order to qualify, the employee must work for an employer that has at least thirty (30) employees or is a government entity, regardless of size. Further, the employee must have worked for that employer for at least one (1) year and a minimum of 1,000 hours during the last twelve (12) months.
Separately from unpaid time off, New Jersey offers Family Leave Insurance (“FLI”), which enables eligible employees to take up to twelve (12) weeks off of work to care for a family member who has a serious illness or injury or to care for or bond with a child within one (1) year of the child’s birth or placement for adoption or foster care. FLI pays employees 85% of the employee’s salary or wage up to a maximum that is set on a yearly basis. While employees should advise employers of their intent to apply for FLI benefits, application for FLI benefits is made directly to the State of New Jersey and the State of New Jersey determines eligibility for benefits. In some instances, employers have private plans. If an employee is unsure whether their employer has a private plan, employees should check with their human resources department. An important note is that it is currently unclear whether taking FLI provides job protection if an employee does not otherwise also qualify for NJFLA or FMLA benefits.
New Jersey also offers Temporary Disability Insurance (“TDI”) for an employee’s own serious illness or injury. Similarly to the FLI benefits, TDI pays employees 85% of the employee’s salary or wage up to a maximum that is set on a yearly basis. While employees should advise employers of their intent to apply for TDI benefits, application for TDI benefits is made directly to the State of New Jersey and the State of New Jersey determines eligibility for benefits. In some instances, employers have private plans. If an employee is unsure whether their employer has a private plan, employees should check with their human resources department. Further, it is against the law to retaliate against an employee for taking TDI.
Additionally, New Jersey employees may be eligible for accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and/or the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“NJLAD”) for an employee’s disability. In some instances, a short-term leave of absence may be an appropriate accommodation upon the expiration of FMLA benefits or in instances when the employee does not meet the requirements for FMLA leave. If you believe you require an accommodation under the ADA and/or the NJLAD, you should discuss the issue with your physician and make a request for an accommodation to your employer.