Employment Law: The New Jersey legislature recently enacted historic legislation which will allow all New Jersey employees to take up to six weeks of partially paid leave to care for sick family members, newborns or newly adopted children.

Under the New Jersey Paid Family Leave Act, a “family member” is defined as a child, spouse, domestic partner or civil union partner, or the parent of a spouse, domestic partner or civil union partner. Employees seeking benefits under the law may take either continuous or intermittent leave, up to a total of 42 days in any 12-month period. With respect to newborns and newly adopted children, parents may take leave at any time within the first year after the birth or adoption of the child, provided that the leave is completed within the first 12-month period.

Leave under the Paid Family Leave Act will run concurrently to any leave taken by an employee under the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the New Jersey Family Leave Act (NJFLA). However, while both the FMLA and the NJFLA require covered employers to reinstate employees taking leave under those acts, the Paid Family Leave Act does not impose the same requirement. Accordingly, employees taking leave under the Act may not be able to return to the same or a comparable position once their leave ends. In other words, if an employee is only eligible for leave under the Paid Family Leave Act, his job is not protected. However, if the employee is eligible for the paid leave as well as leave under either the FMLA or NJFLA, although the terms run concurrently, the employee would still be entitled to reinstatement of his job under the latter statutes.

Employees taking leave under the new law will be eligible to receive 2/3 of their salary, up to a maximum of $524 per week. The program will be funded entirely by employee contributions in the form of payroll deductions, which the legislature estimates will amount to approximately $33 a year for New Jersey workers. These payroll deductions will begin on January 1, 2009, however, the benefits afforded under the Act will not be available to employees until July 1, 2009.

It is notable, that this law is differs from the Federal and State Family Leave Acts in that the Paid Family Leave Act applies to all employers, regardless of size. Accordingly, even employees of small companies can avail themselves of the benefits of this Act; in fact, it is arguably aimed as such small business employees. Accordingly, it is important that all New Jersey employers understand the new law and its requirements. Without limitation, as of January 1, 2009, all employers need to remember commence withholding the application deductions from employee payroll.

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