New Jersey Family Leave Act Lawyer (FLA)
Like its federal counterpart, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the New Jersey Family Leave Act (NJFLA) allows workers to take leave from work for the birth of a child or to care for a family member with a serious health condition. The two laws have significant differences, however, so it might be better to request NJFLA instead of FMLA, or vice versa, depending on the circumstances. Both laws also provide strong protections for employees who feel their rights to take leave have been wrongfully denied or interfered with, or if they have been discriminated against, retaliated against, or fired for requesting or taking leave. The New Jersey employment law attorneys at Poulos LoPiccolo represent New Jersey workers who have had their family leave rights violated or their family leave claims wrongfully denied. Learn more about the NJ family leave law below, and contact our experienced New Jersey Family Leave Act lawyers if you are having trouble accessing your rights under the law.
Differences Between the FMLA and the New Jersey Family Leave Act
The differences between the two laws are not trivial. It’s important to understand where these two laws differ so you can make the right choice when requesting family leave from your employer. Here are some of the biggest differences between the FMLA and the NJFLA.
The FMLA applies to private employers with 50 or more employees, as well as government agencies and public or private schools, regardless of the number of employees. Since June of 2019, the NJFLA has applied to employers (public and private) with 30 or more employees. Therefore, if you work for a smaller employer that has between 30 and 50 employees, you could be entitled to family leave under the NJFLA but not the FMLA. If your employer is a small government agency, however, you might fare better under FMLA.
The definition of an eligible employee differs between the two laws as well. For FMLA leave, you must have worked for your employer for twelve months and put in at least 1,250 hours of service in the 12-month period prior to requesting leave. For NJFLA, the requirement is 12 months of employment and 1,000 hours of service in the 12 months before the leave request. New Jersey employees can therefore request NJFLA earlier than they might be eligible for FMLA leave.
Nature and Amount of Leave
Eligible employees can take up to 12 weeks of FMLA every 12 months, but NJFLA leave is limited to 12 weeks in any 24-month period, so the federal government theoretically provides more leave than the state – 12 weeks every 12 months instead of 12 weeks every 24 months.
FMLA leave can also be taken for birth or adoption, to take care of a family member with a serious health condition, or when the employee’s own illness renders them unable to work. NJFLA, however, does not cover the employee’s own illness. NJFLA is only available for:
- The birth of a child of the employee or placement of a child into foster care or adoption
- To care for a family member with a serious health condition
NJFLA does, however, expressly allow leave for birth or adoption where a gestational carrier is used. NJFLA also applies when a parent must stay home to care for a child due to a school closure announced due to an epidemic or other declared public health emergency. FMLA does not expressly provide for either of these situations.
Definition of Family Member
FMLA leave can be taken to care for a family member with a serious health condition. FMLA defines a family member as a spouse, child, or parent; It does not include siblings, in-laws, grandparents or nonfamily members unless they have a parent-like relationship with the employee. NJFLA leave, on the other hand, can be used to care for a child, parent, parent-in-law, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, spouse, domestic partner, civil union partner, any other individual related by blood, or any other individual shown to have a close association with the employee which is the equivalent of a family relationship.
Highly Compensated Employees
Employers can deny NJFLA leave to some of its highly compensated employees, specifically the highest paid 5% of the workforce or the seven highest paid employees, but only if necessary to prevent “substantial and grievous economic injury” to the employer. FMLA requires that highly paid “key employees” be allowed to take leave, although they can be denied reinstatement if to do so would cause the employer substantial and grievous economic injury.
How FMLA and NJFLA Are the Same
Despite their differences, the two laws are similar in many key provisions. Both provide job-protected leave, guaranteeing restoration to the same or an equivalent position upon returning to work, along with the continuation of group health insurance benefits (New Jersey workers can also apply for Family Leave Insurance if they meet eligibility requirements). In both cases, leave can be paid or unpaid or a combination, based on whether the employee requests or the employer requires the substitution of accrued paid leave for unpaid FMLA or NJFLA leave. Leave under both laws can be taken intermittently or on a reduced schedule, and both require advance notice from the employee where possible and medical certification if requested by the employer.
How Poulos LoPiccolo Can Help With New Jersey Family Leave Act Claims
It is unlawful to interfere with, restrain or deny the exercise or the attempt to exercise rights under the NJFLA. It is also unlawful to discharge or discriminate against an employee or retaliate against them for requesting leave, exercising their rights under the law, filing a complaint or assisting in an investigation. The Attorney General can file a civil action and penalize employers up to $2,000 for a first offense and $5,000 for subsequent offenses.
Employees can also file a complaint with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights, or file their own private lawsuit in New Jersey Superior Court. In addition to recovering money damages for losses and harm such as reinstatement with back pay, interest, medical expenses, caregiver services, and emotional distress, the NJFLA expressly allows for up to $10,000 in punitive damages. If the case is brought as a class action, punitive damages can reach $500,000 or one percent of the employer’s net worth.
Experienced FLA Lawyers Serving Ocean, Monmouth & Middlesex County
Our experienced employment law attorneys will take on the burden of pursuing a case against your employer and recovering the maximum available in money damages, as well as getting your job back if you were wrongfully terminated in violation of the NJFLA. The court will order your employer to pay our fees, so it won’t cost you anything to pursue your case and protect your rights. Contact our experienced New Jersey Family Leave Act lawyers today for a free consultation.