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Navigating the overlapping complexities of federal and state leave laws can be formidable for both employers and employees in New Jersey. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the New Jersey Family Leave Act (NJFLA), the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD), the New Jersey Safe Act, and New Jersey’s Earned Sick Leave Law all provide certain rights and protections but differ in their specifics. Understanding the overlap and unique provisions of each is crucial for ensuring compliance. This article aims to demystify these laws and outline the key points where they intersect and diverge.

Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
Enacted in 1993, the FMLA is a federal law that allows eligible employees to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons. Employees are eligible if they work for a covered employer, have worked for the employer for at least 12 months, and have clocked at least 1,250 hours over the past 12 months. The FMLA permits up to 12 weeks of leave in a 12-month period for purposes such as the birth and care of a newborn, adoption, serious health conditions, or to care for a family member with a serious health condition.

New Jersey Family Leave Act (NJFLA)
The NJFLA often runs concurrently with the FMLA but is specific to New Jersey and offers some distinct provisions. It covers employers with 30 or more employees worldwide and allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 24-month period. Unlike the FMLA, the NJFLA does not cover the employee’s own serious health condition but is available for the care of a family member with a serious health condition, birth or placement for adoption of a child, or for bonding with a child.

New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD)
The NJLAD is a comprehensive civil rights law that prohibits discrimination in employment (among other areas) based on various protected characteristics. Relevant to leave laws, the NJLAD requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities. This could include providing leave time beyond what FMLA or NJFLA dictates, as long as it does not impose an undue hardship on the operation of the business.

New Jersey Safe Act
The New Jersey Safe Act specifically targets victims of domestic or sexual violence, providing them up to 20 days of unpaid leave within a 12-month period to attend to matters related to such incidents. This leave can be used for seeking medical attention, obtaining services from a victim services organization, obtaining psychological or other counseling, relocation, or participating in legal proceedings. Employers are required to maintain confidentiality about the leave.

New Jersey’s Earned Sick Leave Law
This law requires New Jersey employers to provide paid sick leave to their employees. Workers accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to 40 hours each year. This leave can be used for several purposes, including the diagnosis, treatment, or recovery from a mental or physical illness, and to attend a child’s school-related meetings, conferences, or events. Notably, it overlaps with reasons covered under FMLA and NJFLA but provides paid leave instead of unpaid.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
The ADA, like the NJLAD, requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities which may stretch beyond the leave entitlement of the FMLA or the NJFLA.  Like the NJLAD, an undue hardship to the business can be taken into consideration.

New Jersey Temporary Disability and Family Leave Insurance Programs
These two programs have certain anti-retaliation language included in them which may provide a level of job protection to employees, even for those working at smaller companies who may not need to comply with the FMLA, NJFLA or the NJ Safe Act.

Navigating the Overlap
While there is significant overlap between these laws, each has its unique elements. For example, an employee may be entitled to leave under the NJFLA but not under the FMLA if they need to care for a grandparent with a serious health condition, as the FMLA does not recognize grandparents as immediate family members. Employers in New Jersey need to navigate these overlaps carefully to ensure they’re not denying an employee’s rightful leave or benefits under any of these laws.

And New Jersey is not the only state with complex leave laws.  More and more states are mirroring the leave laws enacted by New Jersey.

Marzano Human Resources Consulting guides businesses through the nuances of these complex laws and their overlapping provisions, mitigating risk to the company and increasing employee engagement.

Reach out to us for a no-cost initial consultation.

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