On the heels of its $15/hr. minimum wage hike, the hits keep coming in NJ. This time, it’s family medical leave.

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We get it, New Jersey, you’re the most progressive. Like, “Hold my drink, Bernie Sanders” progressive.

On Tuesday, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy (D) announced that he had signed into law a sweeping expansion to the state’s paid family leave program.

Here are some more details from the press release:

A3975 changes New Jersey’s paid family leave program in a number of ways, including the following:

  • Doubling the number of weeks for Family Leave Insurance (FLI) and Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI): Employees can take up to 12 consecutive weeks of paid family leave or temporary disability insurance during any 12-month period, beginning in July 2020. Currently, employees are only able to take up to 6 weeks of FLI or TDI in a 12-month period.
  • Increasing the weekly benefit: Individuals can now receive 85 percent of their weekly wage, with the maximum possible benefit going up to 70 percent of the statewide average weekly wage.  Using data from this year, the maximum possible benefit would go up from $650 a week to $860 a week under this law.
  • Increasing intermittent leave from 42 days to 56 days: Workers will be able to take up to 56 days of intermittent leave within a 12-month period, beginning in July 2020.
  • Anti-retaliation provisions: Employers with over 30 employees will be barred from retaliating or discriminating against an employee because they took family leave.
  • Expanding individuals eligible to take paid family leave: The newly signed legislation expands paid family leave to include caring for siblings, in-laws, grandparents, grandchildren, other blood relatives, and any other individuals who can be shown to have the equivalent of a family relationship.
  • Including domestic and sexual violence: The bill explicitly allows family temporary disability leave to be taken for medical attention, counseling, or legal assistance or proceedings arising out of domestic violence or sexual violence. An individual can take family leave under this provision if they themselves were the victim of domestic or sexual violence, or if they need to care for a family member who was such a victim.

But, wait. There’s more…

Right now, the New Jersey Family Leave Act mirrors the Family and Medical Leave Act by only covering businesses that employ 50 or more employees for each working day during each of 20 or more calendar workweeks in the then current or immediately preceding calendar year.

(There are some differences between the two laws; for example, NJFLA does not cover an employee’s serious health condition. But that’s not the point of this post.)

Starting June 30, 2019, the 50-employee threshold drops to 30 employees.

Still more…

Eligible employees can leave to care for a “family member” with a serious health condition, among other reasons. Right now, “family member” means a child, parent, spouse, or one partner in a civil union couple. That will change to “a child, parent, parent-in-law, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, spouse, domestic partner,or one partner in a civil union couple, or any other individual related by blood to the employee, and any other individual that the employee shows to have close association with the employee which is the equivalent of a family relationship.”

That’s HECKA-broad.

Yes, there’s more…

Eligible employees will be able to take intermittent leave for the birth of a child or placement of a child into foster care. And they won’t need employer permission to do it.

These are the BIG changes.

So, what should employers be doing now?

  1. Start drafting those employee-handbook updates.
  2. Order your new posters for the breakroom.
  3. Training your managers on the new law.

If you need any help with that, holler at your boy. We’ll see what I can do to help.

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