TRENTON – Acting Attorney General Andrew J. Bruck announced today that the Division on Civil Rights (DCR) has adopted amendments to its rules under the New Jersey Family Leave Act (NJFLA), including amendments based on a law signed by Governor Murphy to expand protections for family leave related to COVID-19.
The amendments promote the health and safety of New Jersey workers and their families by allowing more employees to take family leave for more reasons than ever before without fear of job loss—including for reasons related to a public health epidemic such as COVID-19. Under the rules, eligible employees are generally entitled to return to the same positions they held prior to taking family leave.
The rules will help clarify for workers and their employers who is eligible to take job-protected family leave, as well as how to administer the benefit. Such issues are vital in ensuring compliance with the law, and protecting the economic security of New Jersey families.
“New Jersey workers should not have to worry about their job security when they need time off to care for a loved one,” said Acting Attorney General Bruck. “The COVID-19 pandemic only underscored the importance of the Family Leave Act’s protections. With the expanded rights signed into law by Governor Murphy and the rules we are announcing today, New Jersey workers have stronger protections than ever before.”
“DCR’s new rules reflect important amendments to the NJFLA, including the critical changes Governor Murphy and the Legislature made in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said DCR Deputy Director Rosemary DiSavino. “New Jersey workers – dedicated frontline workers who have courageously served our communities throughout the pandemic, workers navigating a return to in-person work, and those rejoining the workforce after a furlough or layoff – should have access to the job-protected leave afforded to them by the NJFLA when they need it. The adopted rules are an important step in ensuring that access by providing accurate guidance to employers and employees regarding what the NJFLA requires.”
DCR also has created a new NJFLA poster containing important information about the law, which is accessible for downloading on the Division’s website. Employers covered by the law will need to replace their existing NJFLA posters with the new poster, which also contains information for the public on how to file a discrimination complaint with DCR. Employers who are covered by the law are required to post this new poster in a place where their employees can easily access it.
Initially proposed in March of this year, the amendments announced today update DCR’s rules to reflect changes in the NJFLA that were enacted in 2014, 2019, and 2020.
The rules reflect that the NJFLA generally allows eligible employees of covered employers to take as many as 12 weeks of job-protected leave during a 24-month period in order to care for, or bond with, a new child or to care for a family member, or someone who is the equivalent of family, with a serious health condition.
As amended, the new rules reflect the Legislature’s recent expansion of the NJFLA’s definition of job-protected “family leave” to include, during a state of emergency, leave from employment (1) to care for a family member, or someone who is the equivalent of family, who has been isolated or quarantined due to suspected exposure to a communicable disease or (2) to provide care for a child because the child’s school or place of care has been closed by order of a public official due to an epidemic of a communicable disease or other public health emergency.
Other newly-adopted amendments reflect changes to the NJFLA by:
- Expanding the definition of “covered employer” to include employers with 30 or more employees worldwide, consistent with the 2019 amendments to the NJFLA. (The pre-amendment regulations covered employers with 50 or more employees. State and local government agencies of any size will continue to be covered employers under the proposal.)
- Updating the definition of “eligible employee” to allow a person to count—in applying the eligibility threshold—up to 90 days during which the person was laid off or furloughed due to that employer curtailing operations because of a state of emergency, including the COVID-19 emergency.
- Broadening the definition of “family member” to include not only an employee’s child, parent, spouse, or partner in a domestic union, but also an employee’s parent-in-law, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, or domestic partner; an employee’s other blood relatives; and any other individual with whom an employee can show a close association equivalent to a family relationship.
- Clarifying that the definitions of “parent” and “child” include any parent-child relationship resulting from a valid written agreement with a gestational carrier, to more clearly secure the rights of many families, including LGBTQ+ families.
- Eliminating employers’ discretion to deny family leave requests from their highest-paid employees when the employee’s request is related to a declared public health emergency involving an epidemic of a communicable disease.
- Clarifying that employees may provide their employers with less than 30 days’ advance notice of their intent to take family leave in some situations, including when the employee is seeking family leave to provide care for a family member due to a communicable disease epidemic.
The New Jersey Division on Civil Rights enforces the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination and the New Jersey Family Leave Act and works to prevent, eliminate, and remedy discrimination and bias-based harassment in employment, housing, and places of public accommodation. To find out more go to www.njcivilrights.gov.