Division on Civil Rights Issues New Guidance to Clarify Job Protections Under State Family Leave Law

New Jersey Attorney General Matt Platkin and the Division on Civil Rights (DCR) have created a comprehensive guidance document to clarify the protections afforded by the New Jersey Family Leave Act (NJFLA).

The new resource announced today is the first comprehensive source of accessible information about the NJFLA and its relationship with other state and federal laws, thus empowering employees to make informed choices about taking family leave.

Enacted in 1989, the NJFLA offers job protection to eligible employees of covered employers when taking family leave in specific circumstances. The law addresses the most pervasive concerns New Jersey employees have about taking leave from work: the fear of losing employment, seniority, or access to job advancement.

According to a survey conducted by the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University, employees – particularly those earning less than $100,000 annually – report reluctance to take leave, reflecting confusion about the law.

The guide issued today seeks to address that confusion by providing employees and employers with clear and comprehensive information about the law’s protections.

The guide also aims to assist employers in complying with their obligations under the NJFLA. An employer’s failure to comply with the NJFLA can result in enforcement action by DCR, culminating in the employer being required to pay damages, penalties, and attorney’s fees. In the last year, DCR has recovered over $275,000 in payments to employees, penalties, and attorney’s fees in cases involving alleged violations of the NJFLA.

“In New Jersey, we offer strong job protections to eligible employees because we believe that no one should lose their job if they take time off to bond with the new addition to the family or to care for a loved one,” Platkin said in a statement.

“I am proud of the work the Division on Civil Rights has done to make sure both employers and employees know the law and how to apply it. While the New Jersey Family Leave Act has often been misunderstood – leading to denial of leave, termination of employment, and other violations of the law – with this new resource, we expect better outcomes for workers going forward.”

“Too often, New Jerseyans fear that they may lose their jobs if they take leave to care for a child or a family member. That’s why the protections provided by the New Jersey Family Leave Act are so critical,” Sundeep Iyer, Director of the Division on Civil Rights, added.

In recent years, some employers have not complied with the NJFLA, leading to denials of leave, employment termination, and other violations of the law. Failing to comply with the NJFLA can be costly for employers.

For example, in 2023, DCR finalized consent decrees under which Pine Belt Management LLC, a car dealership located in Lakewood, agreed to pay $105,000 in total relief to resolve complaints alleging that a former employee was terminated for requesting NJFLA-protected leave.

The NJFLA is sometimes confused with the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and two other New Jersey programs related to employment leave: the New Jersey Family Leave Insurance (NJFLI) and the State’s Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) program. The new resource sheds lights on the differences among these related laws and how leave under them may overlap at times.

Separately, the New Jersey Legislature is working on passing a bill which would expand the protections offered under the law to businesses which employee as few as five employees.

Some of the top questions DCR receives about the NJFLA from employees and employers include:

  • Can an employer deny job-protected leave under the NJFLA to an eligible employee?
  • Do employees have to use their accrued paid leave (vacation, sick, administrative, and other paid time off) while taking job-protected leave under the NJFLA?
  • How is the 24-month period in which an eligible employee can take 12 weeks of job-protected leave calculated?
  • When can an employee take job-protected NJFLA leave related to pregnancy or recovery from childbirth?
  • Does an employee’s family leave simultaneously count against the leave time to which they are entitled under the NJFLA and the federal FMLA?

The full resource guide can be accessed here.

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