Family and Medical Work Leave: FMLA and the New Jersey Leave Law

Almost all employees in the United States are granted rights by federal labor laws, that allow them to take time off from work for family and medical reasons. The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) is a widely known federal law that protects employees rights to take time off from work for medical reasons, family emergencies and pregnancy and post pregnancy child care. In New Jersey, employees enjoy additional protection by the New Jersey Family Leave Act (NJFLA).

FMLA Eligibility and Benefits

Most employee are covered by FMLA guidelines, so long as they have been employed by the covered employer for 12 months and have worked a minimum of 1,250 hours. The 12 month employment requirement states that the 12 months need not be consecutive, and teachers, because of non-working summers, are covered even if they do not meet the required 1,250 annual working hours. Additionally, the employer must employ a minimum of 50 workers within 75 miles of the work place in order to fall under the authority of the FMLA.

Reasons for Taking Time Off

Employees are entitle to take up to twelve weeks off for numerous reasons covered by the FMLA. This leave is not required to be paid, however, employees can use Social Security Disability in some case to make up for the lost income. 

The other main benefit for employees taking time off from their job, is that the FMLA guarantees their job will be there when they return. Some of the most common reasons for taking medical or family leave are as follows:

  1. Pregnancy and Child Birth: Pregnant women can take up to 12 weeks off after the birth or adoption of a child.
  2. Family Medical Issues: Employees may use their FMLA protected leave to care for a seriously ill spouse, child or parent.
  3. Employee Illness or Injury: If a worker is disabled or contracts an illness that prevents them from doing their job, leave can be taken.

Work Leave for Pregnant Women and Child Birth

For pregnant women who will be taking time off, there are some issues that should known. 

  1. Executives, managers and directors should be aware that if they fall into the top 10% wage earner category at their place of employment, AND it can be proven that their leave would cause significant financial harm to the company, then they may not be guaranteed their job back upon return to work.
  2. If both spouses work for the same company, only one can take the full 12 weeks of leave (or both can take 12 weeks combined).

The New Jersey Family Leave Act

Workers employed in New Jersey are also cover by the New Jersey Family Leave Act, NJFLA. There are a few differences between this and the FMLA, that grant additional protection for New Jersey Employees. Most importantly, there are situations where the 12 week leave may be extended by taking leave for different reasons consecutively. These situations are not common, and some examples are as follows:

  1. A pregnant woman take time off for her disability and to care for her child. She can can additional time off by using her NJFLA leave after the FMLA leave runs out.
  2. An employee takes time off for an illness. After the FMLA leave runs out, his wife becomes ill. He can take up to an additional 12 weeks to care for her, for a total of 24 weeks of leave.
Situations like these are rare, but in the even that they come up, New Jersey residents can take advantage of both acts to care for themselves and family members. 

There are many intricacies of both the FMLA and NJFLA that are outside of the scope of this guide. Always consult with an attorney for advice on any specific situation.

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