Employees in New Jersey are entitled to family and medical leave under the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the New Jersey Family Leave Act (NJFLA). Under both laws, employees are allowed to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for certain medical or personal needs.
Employers are subject to the FMLA if they meet certain criteria, such as having at least 50 employees. Employees must also meet certain criteria in order to be eligible for leave under the FMLA, including having worked for the company for at least a year. The experienced Atlantic County employment lawyers at Levine Staller assist both employers and employees with all types of family and medical leave matters.
Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
Under the FMLA, employees may take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per 12-month period, provided that they:
- Worked for the company for 12 months
- Worked at least 1,250 hours during the past 12 months.
To be subject to the FMLA, private employers must have at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius of the worksite. However, state and federal government employers are not held to that requirement.
Employees who meet the work requirements may take leave under the FMLA only for certain medical or personal needs. Medical or personal needs covered under the FMLA are:
- Bonding with a newborn or adopted child
- Caring for their own, their spouse’s, their child’s, or their parent’s serious health condition
- Helping family members who were wounded during military service
- Tending to affairs related to their immediate family member’s active duty deployment
The FMLA also provides employees with job reinstatement privileges. At the end of an employee’s FMLA leave, their employer must provide them with the same or equivalent position that they had before.
Although FMLA leave time is unpaid, employees may use their accrued paid leave time during their FMLA absence.
The FMLA prohibits employers from interfering with, restraining, or denying an eligible employee’s right to take family and medical leave. Employers are also prohibited from discriminating or retaliating against employees who exercise, or attempt to exercise, their rights under the FMLA.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor and relevant case law, some examples of prohibited conduct include:
- Refusing to grant an eligible employee FMLA leave
- Using an employee’s request for FMLA leave as a negative factor in employment decisions
- Counting FMLA leave as an absence under “no fault” attendance policies
New Jersey Family Leave Act (NJFLA)
The NJFLA grants eligible employees leave for up to 12 weeks per 24-month period. To be eligible, employees must have been employed for at least 12 months, and worked 1,000 hours in the last 12 months. Employers with 50 or more employees anywhere in the world must comply with the NJFLA, when it comes to their New Jersey employees.
Under the NJFLA, eligible employees may not take leave to care for their own disability. However, they may take time off to care for their seriously ill spouse, child, parent, or to care for a newborn or adopted child.
Upon completion of their leave, New Jersey employees must be offered their previous position, unless it is no longer available, in which case they must be offered a similar position in terms of both salary and benefits.
In New Jersey, under the New Jersey Security and Financial Employment Act (“NJ SAFE Act”) employees may also take up to 20 days off per 12-month period if they were, or their family member was, a victim of domestic violence. To qualify for domestic violence leave, employees must have worked for the employer for at least a year, for at least 1,000 hours, and the employer must have at least 25 employees.
New Jersey Law Against Discrimination
At Levine Staller, our attorneys often find that both employers and employees are unclear about the interplay between the FMLA and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD). It is not uncommon for employers to deny leave requests to disabled employees on the basis that the employee is not eligible for leave under the FMLA or has used all of his or her leave under the FMLA. Doing so may be illegal.
Employers have an affirmative duty to engage in the “interactive process,” and work with their employee to provide a reasonable accommodation. Such reasonable accommodations can include modified work schedules, and temporary or intermittent leave, above and beyond the protections under the FMLA and NJFLA. Failing to do so may constitute disability discrimination.
Thus, our lawyers caution employers not to rush a decision to deny leave based upon a narrow analysis of whether an employee is eligible under the FMLA. Employers must be careful not to terminate an employee without consideration of his or her request for additional leave. Employers risk litigation when they make assumptions and refuse to provide leave without engaging the interactive process.
Likewise for employees, if you have been terminated following a request for leave, you should contact an employment lawyer who can evaluate your termination and assess whether your rights have been violated.
Atlantic County Employment Lawyers at Levine Staller Represent Both Employers and Employees in Family and Medical Leave Matters
For assistance with any family and medical leave matter, contact an experienced Atlantic County employment lawyer at Levine, Staller, Sklar, Chan & Brown, P.A. We have been providing high quality legal services to our clients for over 40 years. From our office in Atlantic City, we represent clients throughout New Jersey, including those in Atlantic County, Ocean County, and Cape May County. To arrange a confidential consultation, call us at 609-348-1300 or contact us online.