Jersey, sure: NJ Joins the COVID-19 Legislative Flurry

by Marti Cardi, Esq. - Vice President, Product Compliance

March 30, 2020

 

 

On March 25 New Jersey’s governor signed Senate Bill 2304 that increases rights under several leave and benefits laws to address COVID-19 challenges for employees.  These changes were effective immediately.  Here’s a rundown:

Author’s note: Pardon the cumbersome language, but the statutory language is even more complicated!  Be sure to consult the actual wording of SB 2304 as you apply its provisions. 

Family Leave Act and Family Leave Insurance.  The Family Leave Act (FLA) provides up to 12 weeks of leave in a 24-month period to bond with a new child or to care for a family member with a serious health condition.  Family Leave Insurance provides paid leave of absence benefits for substantially similar reasons as the FLA.  SB 2304 amends both acts by adding to the definition of “serious health condition.”  This term now includes, for both laws, leave needed due to the isolation or quarantine of a family member that meets specific criteria:

  • an illness caused by, a known or suspected exposure to, or efforts to prevent the spread of a
    communicable disease that requires in-home care or treatment of a family member of the
    employee due to:

    • the issuance by a healthcare provider or public health authority of a determination
      that the presence in the community of a family member may jeopardize the health
      of others; and
    • the recommendation, direction, or order of the provider or authority that the family
      member be isolated or quarantined because of suspected exposure to the
      communicable disease.

Another addition to the FLA relates to the “key employee” provision of the act.  Normally, a New Jersey employer can deny family leave to a highly-paid employee when the denial is necessary to prevent substantial and grievous economic injury to the employer’s operations. Now, this provision is not applicable when the leave is needed for circumstances such as those described immediately above (in short, the quarantine or isolation of a family member).

Temporary Disability Insurance.  The statute providing temporary disability insurance for an individual’s non work-related accident or sickness has also been amended.  The term “sickness” (whether relating to a family member or the employee) now includes the same criteria as specified above for “serious health condition,” but also includes the need for in-home care or treatment of “the employee or family member of the employee.”

SB 2304 also waives the typical 7-day waiting period, only for temporary disability benefits attributable to the additional definition of “sickness.”  (Family Leave Insurance does not have a waiting period.)

Earned Sick Leave.  The New Jersey Earned Sick Leave Act provides workers with 1 hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked.  Under the original act this paid leave could be used for multiple reasons, including closure of the employee’s workplace or the school or place of care for the employee’s child due to a public health emergency, or because of a determination that the presence in the community of the employee or a family member in need of care by the employee would jeopardize the health of others.

This reason has now been expanded to include time during which the employee is not able to work because of:

  • a closure of the employee’s workplace, or the school or place of care of a child of the
    employee due to a public health emergency;
  • a declaration of a state of emergency by the governor;
  • a determination that the presence in the community of the employee, or a member
    of the employee’s family in need of care by the employee, would jeopardize the
    health of others; or
  • due to a state of emergency or the recommendation or order of a healthcare provider
    or authorized public official, the employee undergoes isolation or quarantine, or
    cares for a family member in quarantine, as a result of suspected exposure to a
    communicable disease and a finding by the provider or authority that the presence
    in the community of the employee or family member would jeopardize the health
    of others. (It’s not just you, this last point does seem confusingly redundant.)

Matrix Can Help!

At Matrix we track COVID-19-related state and federal legislation on a daily basis – or even more often!  We are updating our leave administration practices and training claims examiners to apply the new COVID-19-related provisions of the New Jersey laws.  Keep watching this blog for news as it develops.