Alerts and Updates
New Jersey Expands Paid Family Leave Benefits
March 21, 2019
Come June 30, 2019, more employers in New Jersey will need to be equipped with leave policies that address paid family leave, since this change in the law will effect employers of 30 or more employees.
On February 19, 2019, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed into law Assembly Bill 3975, which expands existing paid family leave benefits and protections currently available through the State of New Jersey’s Paid Family Leave Program (PFLP). Certain changes take effect immediately, while others are not required until June 30, 2019, and July 1, 2020.
Expanded Definitions for Family Members
The new law expands the current definitions of child, parent and family member. Assembly Bill 3975 redefines such terms to make clear that employees may seek paid family leave to care for foster children, parents-in-law, grandparents, domestic partners, siblings, grandchildren, blood relatives and any other individuals who have the equivalent of a family relationship with an employee. These amended definitions are more inclusive and increase the scope of paid leave benefits permitted under the PLP.
Expanded Reasons for Paid Leave
In addition to the expanded definitions noted above, paid leave benefits under the PLP now cover leave taken for reasons covered by the New Jersey Security and Financial Empowerment Act, commonly referred to as the New Jersey SAFE Act. Survivors of domestic violence or sexual assault and those caring for family members who were victims of such violent offenses may be eligible for paid leave under the New Jersey SAFE Act, discussed in a previous Alert.
Changes Effective June 30, 2019
Expand Coverage of Family Leave
Currently, the New Jersey Family Leave Act (FLA) applies to employers who employ 50 or more employees for each working day during each of 20 or more calendar workweeks in the then-current or immediately preceding calendar year. As of June 30, 2019, the FLA will cover more New Jersey employers. Employers with 30 or more employees within the requisite time frame will be required to provide eligible employees with family leave.
New Anti-Retaliation Protections
Assembly Bill 3975 includes sweeping anti-retaliation protections barring employers with 30 or more employees from harassing, threatening or otherwise discriminating or retaliating against an employee because the employee exercised paid family leave rights by requesting or receiving paid family leave benefits. Employers with 50 or more employees nationwide for 20 or more calendar workweeks in the thencurrent or immediately preceding calendar year are already subject to the anti-retaliation and job restoration protections provided by the FLA, as well as such protections afforded by the federal Family and Medical Leave Act if the requisite number of employees are within a 75-mile radius.
Changes Effective July 1, 2020
Increase in Duration of Paid Leave Benefits
New Jersey currently provides employees with benefits for up to six weeks of paid family leave and 42 days of intermittent leave, subject to certain conditions, in a 12-month period. Starting on July 1, 2020, employees will be eligible for benefits for up to 12 consecutive weeks of paid family leave and 56 days of intermittent leave, also subject to certain conditions, during any 12-month period.
Increase in Weekly Payment Amount During Paid Leave
Under the PFLP, employees who take family leave are eligible to receive up to two-thirds of their pay, with the maximum benefit of $650 per week for up to six weeks. Assembly Bill 3975 increases the weekly benefit to 85 percent of the employee’s weekly wage, with the maximum weekly benefit going up to 70 percent of the statewide average weekly wage. Using data from 2019, the maximum possible weekly benefit would go up from $650 a week to $860 a week. These benefits will continue to be funded by employee contributions through payroll deductions.
What This Means for New Jersey Employers
Come June 30, 2019, more employers in New Jersey will need to be equipped with family leave policies, since this change in the law will effect employers of 30 or more employees, not just larger employers of 50 or more employees. Larger employers should continue to be aware of the interplay between the protections provided by PFLP and the protections afforded under the FLA and the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.
All New Jersey employers should begin taking steps now to ensure that their leave polices comply with existing state and federal laws governing family leave, as well as with the changes to the PFLP now, and the changes on the horizon. Additionally, employers should educate supervisors and human resources professionals on the amended law’s requirements and conduct any necessary training before the changes to the law take effect.
For More Information
If you have any questions about this Alert, please contact any of the attorneys in our Employment, Labor, Benefits and Immigration Practice Group or the attorney in the firm with whom you are regularly in contact.
Disclaimer: This Alert has been prepared and published for informational purposes only and is not offered, nor should be construed, as legal advice. For more information, please see the firm's full disclaimer.