New Jersey Family Leave Act (NJFLA) and Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
The New Jersey Family Leave Act (NJFLA) and the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allow eligible employees to take 12 weeks of unpaid leave from their employment to care for personal and family health issues. There are specific conditions and requirements for employees to be eligible for this type of leave, but the laws ensure workers that their healthcare benefits will continue throughout their period of absence, and that their jobs will be protected.
For an employee to be eligible to take medical leave under the FMLA, they must have worked a minimum total of 1,250 hours for their employer prior to the request being made. Conversely, for New Jersey workers, NJFLA only requires that eligible employees work 1,000 hours prior to their requested leave. An important distinction between the state and federal law is that New Jersey does not cover unpaid leave for an employee’s own health issues. In some cases, like childbirth, FMLA and NJFLA can be combined to entitle the employee to 24 weeks of unpaid leave if the employee takes federal leave first, and then state leave after the birth of their child.
Under the federal law, employers with 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius are required to provide 12 unpaid work weeks of leave to eligible employees annually. New Jersey law requires employers with a total of 50 employees in any location to provide this same benefit, but allows the 12 weeks of leave to be taken over a 24-month period. The laws only require employers to provide unpaid leave, however they can opt to provide full or partial payment, or require employees to use their accrued personal, sick, and vacation time benefits.
Heath Issues Eligible for NJFLA and FMLA
The medical conditions that are protected under the NJFLA and the FMLA are specific and include:
- Birth of a child and time to bond with the newborn
- Placement and bonding time with an adopted child or foster care child
- Care of a spouse, child, biological or adoptive parent with a serious medical or health condition
- FMLA protection covers leave for an employee’s own serious health condition (NJFLA does not)
- Care of a seriously wounded or ill spouse, child, or parent active in the military, including the National Guard, Reserves, or other branches of the military
- In the case of leave requested for an active duty military family member, the laws allow for 26 weeks of unpaid leave.
Job Security During NJFLA and FMLA
New Jersey state and federal laws provide job protection for eligible employees taking medical leave under the NJFLA and FMLA. Upon return to work, the employee is entitled to their previous position without demotion or salary reduction. If the position is no longer available, the employer must offer the employee a position similar in salary, benefits, and status. If a layoff or reduction in force took place while the employee was out on leave, the worker would still be eligible for the same rights and protections as those employees that were not on leave.
Retaliation Due to NJFLA and FMLA
It is not uncommon for employers to unlawfully retaliate after employees use FMLA time. Thankfully, New Jersey state and federal laws exist to protect individuals against retaliatory acts by their employer for protected activity such as taking family medical leave, pregnancy leave, or seeking accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). If you are subjected to workplace retaliation for putting your health first, an experienced attorney retaliation attorney at McOmber & McOmber may be able to protect your career.