New Jersey Developments: Enhanced Leave of Absence and Job Protection under NJ FLA to Care for Family Members

by Gail Cohen, Esq. – Director, Employment Law & Compliance

April 17, 2020

 

At Matrix and Reliance Standard, we have been tirelessly keeping up with the explosion of legislation that has been introduced and enacted to address COVID-19 related leaves of absence, disability plans, paid sick leave, and accommodations. We previously told you about New Jersey legislative activity related to COVID 19 just 2 weeks ago. Here is a link to that blog post.

On April 14, Governor Phil Murphy signed NJ SB 2374, further amending the New Jersey Family Leave Act (“FLA”) to expand leave rights for employees who need to care for family members due to known or suspected exposure to COVID-19. These amendments were made effective retroactively to March 25, 2020.

Here is a summary of the important changes:

Expansion of the Definition of Family Leave: The amendment broadens the bases for which an eligible employee can take FLA to include leave from employment. Employees can now use the FLA’s job-protected 12 weeks in a 24-month period for leave needed due to an epidemic of a communicable disease, a known or suspected exposure to the communicable disease, or efforts to prevent spread of a communicable disease, when made necessary by a state of emergency declared by the Governor or public health authority. New leave reasons include:

  1. In-home care or treatment of a child due to school or daycare closing by order of a public health official;
  2. Quarantine from a public health authority of a family member in need of care due to known or
    suspected exposure to a communicable disease; or
  3. A recommendation by a healthcare provider or public health authority that a family member in need
    of care voluntarily self-quarantine due to suspected exposure to a communicable disease.

Certification. For leave due to school or day care closing, the employer may only request documentation of the date and reason for closing. Similarly, for reason #2, the only documentation required is the date of issuance of the determination and probable duration. For reason #3, voluntary self-quarantine, the employee certification is limited to the date of the recommendation, its probable duration and any “medical or other facts known to the healthcare provider or authority.”

Intermittent leave. Family leave for the new reasons can be taken intermittently if the employee: 1) provides notice as soon as practicable; 2) makes a reasonable effort to schedule that time to limit the disruption to the employer’s operations; and 3) if possible, gives the employer an advance regular schedule of the day(s) of the week on which intermittent leave will be taken.

This seems odd in that the law allows an employee to work intermittently even if the reason for leave is quarantine of a family member due to known or suspected exposure to the communicable disease – which means the employee himself may also have been exposed. There is no limitation such as intermittent leaves being available only for an employee who is able to work remotely.

Expansion of NJ Family Temporary Disability Benefits. In addition to expanding FLA, the amendment expanded NJ Family Leave Insurance (FLI). The definition of “disability” now allows benefits for an employee to care for a family member who requires in-home care or treatment because he or she is subject to a quarantine order issued by a public health authority or healthcare provider.

Matrix can Help!

At Matrix we don’t just track all this state and federal legislation – we jump into action!  We are constantly updating our leave administration practices and staff training to apply each new COVID-19-related provision. So, reach out to your account manager with specific questions and make sure to continue to read our blog for the latest updates and developments. Stay safe!

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