The employee who approaches you with the news of their pregnancy and, as a business, understanding your obligations, tends to be a matter many companies have difficulty navigating through.
There are several different federal and New Jersey state statutes that may be involved and which you should understand:
1) The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
The FMLA provides certain eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year. It allows employees, at businesses with 50 or more workers, the right to take unpaid leave for certain family and medical reasons, including:
- For the pregnancy and eventual birth of the child (childbirth is considered a disability)
- The care of the newborn child of an employee (both parents are eligible)
- For placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care
2) The New Jersey Family Leave Act (NJFLA)
Unlike the FMLA, the NJFLA does not cover the employee who has a disability (in this case, the actual pregnancy and childbirth). Both the FMLA and NJFLA do provide both parents with time to “bond” with the child after birth. As with the FMLA, leave under the NJFLA is also available for placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care.
Eligible employees are allowed to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 24 month period.
The thing that confuses businesses is that companies with 30 or more employees, but less than 50, must comply with the NJFLA, but not the FMLA.
3) New Jersey State Paid Temporary Disability Benefit
All New Jersey employees may be eligible for short-term disability insurance through the New Jersey State-provided plan. Such benefits are intended to provide employees with a level of income for situations involving illness/injuries that are not work-related, such as childbirth.
4) New Jersey Paid Family Leave Benefit
Eligible New Jersey employees may be approved by the State of New Jersey for up to twelve (12) weeks of paid leave to, among other things, bond with a newborn, or placement of a newly adopted or foster child.
Many businesses with less than 30 employees inquire as to what their their legal obligations are in addressing pregnancy and family leave matters.
Employees at these small companies are not guaranteed reinstatement from leave for any disability, including childbirth, or when returning from a family leave, such as bonding with a newborn, adopted or foster child.
Most small businesses can ill afford to lose an employee for an extended period, but they also want to ensure they don’t do something that will open them up to the risk of litigation. They also understand that keeping key employees is critical to their success so want employee-friendly policies in place.
For businesses with 15 or more employees, the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act is designed to protect employees. In New Jersey, employers of any size must comply with the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. Not handling pregnancy situations fairly and in a similar fashion, or asking the wrong questions, may be costly to your company.
Let Marzano Human Resources Consulting help you through this complex and, at times, confusing issue. We will work with you on the development of disability, including pregnancy, and family leave policies that will help make you an employer of choice, but also mitigate risk to your business.