Expansions to the New Jersey’s Family Leave Act

Female employee on family leave for newborn childLast month, New Jersey amended its Family Leave Act to expand the protections it offers to employees in several key ways.  The Family Leave Act is a law that entitles covered employees to take up to 12 weeks off from work over a 24 month period to care for a family member with a serious illness, for childbirth or adoption, or to care for a newborn or newly adopted child.  It requires employers to reinstate employees at the end of a covered family leave, and prohibits employers from retaliating against employees because they took time off pursuant to the Act.

Some of the new protections of the Family Leave Act went into effect immediately, but others do not go into effect until June 1, 2019.  For example, the Family Leave Act currently only applies to employees who work for employers with 50 or more employees.  Starting on June 1, 2019, it will apply to employers that have at least 30 employees.  As a result, many more employees will be covered by the Act.

Similarly, the term “family member” currently includes only children, parents, spouses and civil union partner.  Effective June 1, 2019, family member also will include parents-in-law, siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, domestic partners, “any other individual related by blood to the employee” and anyone else with whom the employee can show he or she has a “close association . . . which is the equivalent of a family relationship.”

In addition, effective last month the Family Leave Act’s definition of “child” and “parent” now include foster children and foster parents, as well as the relationship between a parent and child who was born pursuant to a contract with a gestational carrier (meaning a surrogate contract).

Further, the maximum period in which an employee can take a family leave on a reduced leave schedule has been expanded from only 12 consecutive weeks to 12 consecutive months.  A reduced leave schedule is when an employee takes days off from work that are not consecutive, such as if an employee takes occasional days off to take a family member to doctor’s appointments or treatment.

Another change to the Family Leave Act is that when an employee wants to take an intermittent leave for childbirth, adoption or foster care, the employee only needs to provide his or her employer 15 days’ of advance notice.  Previously, employees were required to provide at least 30 days’ notice before such a leave.  Employees still can provide shorter notice before starting an intermittent leave if there is an emergency or another unforeseen circumstance.  An intermittent leave is when a worker reduces his or her regular workweek, such as if he or she takes off every Friday as part of a family leave.

Additional information about the New Jersey Family Leave Act, as well as the federal Family & Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), is available on the Family and Medical Leaves section of our website.  If you have any questions about your rights or entitlements under the New Jersey Family Leave Act, please feel free to contact us online or to call us at (973) 744-4000.