Knowing Your Rights Under The Family And Medical Leave Act
Do you need a leave from work to care a family member who is suffering from a serious health condition? Are you a new mom or dad who wishes to take a leave of absence so you can bond with your newborn baby? Do you need some time off for adoption or to foster a child? If you are in need of a family leave absence for one of these or another qualifying reason, you may be eligible for a protected leave of absence under the New Jersey Family Leave Act. This means your employer must give you protected time off from work and cannot retaliate against you when you return from the leave.
The New Jersey Family Leave Act requires employers of at least 30 employees to provide up to twelve (12) weeks of leave from work in a 24-month period. The family leave law requires the employer to continue to provide the employee employment benefits during the protected leave, such as group life insurance, health insurance, disability insurance, sick leave, annual leave, pensions or other similar benefits while he or she is on family leave. An employer is prohibited from interfering or retaliating against an employee for exercising their New Jersey Family Leave Act rights and can be subjected to significant penalties, including compensatory damages, emotional distress damages, and punitive damages, when they violate the law.
New Jersey Family Leave Act Eligibility Rules
A New Jersey employee is eligible for New Jersey Family Leave Act rights if the following conditions are met:
- The employee has worked for their employer for one year and at least 1,000 hours during the last year immediately preceding the leave.
- The employer is a public employer or a private employer who has 30 or more employees anywhere worldwide working for at least 20 weeks during the current or previous year.
- The employee does not have a salary among the highest 5% of all employees and their absence for work would have a substantial negative effect on the employer's business or that the employee is one of the seven most highly paid employees of the employer.
Employee’s Notice Requirements
An employee who requests New Jersey Family Leave Act must provide their employer advanced or reasonable notice of their need for leave. An employee must provide 30 days’ notice for leave in connection with the birth or adoption of a child and 15 days’ notice for the leave to care for the immediate family member. An exception arises to these advance noticed requirements in situations of an emergency, which the law then requires that reasonable notice be given by the employee to the employer. An employee may require that the employee provides a certification from a medical provider to support the need for leave.
Qualifying Reasons to Take Family Leave
The New Jersey Family Leave Act allows up to twelve (12) weeks of unpaid time off in order to:
Care for a newly born or adopted or foster child, as long as the leave begins within one year of the date the child is born or placed with the employee; or
Care for a family member who has a serious health condition in-patient care, continuing medical treatment, or in need of medical supervision. The family leave law considers a family member to include a child, parent, parent-in-law, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, spouse, domestic partner, or one partner in a civil union couple, or any other individual related by blood to the employee, and any other individual that the employee shows to have a close association with the employee which is the equivalent of a family relationship.
Care for a family member in the event of a declared state of emergency because of an epidemic of a communicable disease, a known or suspected exposure to the communicable disease, or efforts to prevent the spread of a communicable disease. This includes caring for a family member who has been required or recommended by a health care provider to self-quarantine or to care for a child because of a school closure.
The term “care” is defined as including but not being limited to,
Physical care, emotional support, visitation assistance in treatment, transportation, arranging for a change in care, assistance with essential daily living matters, and personal attendant services.
Amount of New Jersey Family Leave
The twelve (12) weeks the period of protected leave can be used intermittently, in days, weeks, or hours, or consecutively to eligible employees. Leave for the birth or adoption of a child may begin at any time within one year of the date of the birth or placement of the child. The New Jersey Family Leave Act requires that employers maintain the employee’s group health insurance policy and return the employee to the same or equivalent position that they had prior to going out on the protected leave.
Common Violations of the New Jersey Family Leave Act
The New Jersey Family Leave Act is described as being one of the farthest-reaching family leave laws in the entire country. Employers can violate the law in different ways.
One common violation of the law is when employers do not provide employees who become new parents the right to take leave to bond with a newborn, adopt a child or receive a foster child. The law protects women from being retaliated because they had a baby and need to take family leave. That goes the same for a dad or partner who decides to take the family to bond with a newborn or adopted or fostered child. Another common violation is when employers use a protected family leave of absence against an employee is taking an adverse employment action. For example, employers too often use a protected absence as a negative factor in accordance with an attendance policy, which often constitutes a violation of the family leave law. Employers also regularly confuse their obligations under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"), which provides employees to leave for some of the same qualifying reasons. For instance, a woman who goes out on leave as a result of her disability relating to pregnancy is afforded the right to exhaust her FMLA leave, before accruing her 12 weeks of family bonding leave under the New Jersey Family Leave Act. Employers who run the leaves concurrently often run afoul of their obligations under the New Jersey Family Leave Act.
Some employers violate the New Jersey Family Leave because they do not understand their obligations under the law. Others simply do not care to know their legal obligations or their rights of their employees. In either case, we can protect your rights to take a necessary family leave of absence from work or assist you in determining whether the denial of your request of leave or your termination of employment is unlawful.
Has your employer denied your request to take leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)? Were you terminated or retaliated against at work because you requested FMLA leave? You may be able to recover financial compensation.
To determine if you are eligible, please contact me, employment law lawyer Stephen Roger Bosin in Bergen County. I can review your case and tell you whether or not your employer may have violated your rights in denying your leave, terminating your employment, or retaliating against you. If so, I will file a lawsuit and seek financial compensation on your behalf. I serve clients throughout New Jersey.
What Is FMLA?
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that gives employees the right to take up to 12 weeks of leave in certain circumstances. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, FMLA leave can be used:
- For the care of an employee’s newborn or adopted child
- To care for a spouse, child, or parent with a serious health condition
- As medical leave when an employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition