The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal labor law which requires that a covered employer provide their employees with job protected and unpaid leave for a qualified medical or family circumstance.
The FMLA affords rights and protections related to medical leave for employees. This unpaid leave may continue for up to 12 weeks.
In addition, the FMLA requires that a covered employer preserve the health benefits for all eligible workers as though they were still actively working. During the leave time, the position of the employee will be protected and that employee cannot be terminated.
Because the FMLA is a federal law, it preempts state laws even if the laws are in conflict with one another. This means that employees in states which provide little to no family and medical leave coverage may still be protected under the FMLA.
There are some states which have laws that provide additional coverage, depending upon the health or medical circumstances. Most states, however, do not provide more leave than that which is required by the federal law.
Do All Employers Provide Under the FMLA?
No, all employers are not required to provide the benefits that are required by the FMLA. Federal law provides that an employer is required to provide all eligible employees with leave if that employer meets one of several criteria, including that the employer:
- Is a local, state, or federal governmental agency;
- Is a private business that conducts interstate commerce, with fifty or more employees that work twenty or more weeks in one year; or
- Engages in commerce or an industry which affects commerce. It is important to note that almost every business meets the requirement for being commerce or affecting commerce.
Employers have certain specific responsibilities under the FMLA. An employer is not permitted to terminate an employee who takes family or medical leave for any reason provided in the FMLA.
Employees who are working for an employer that is covered by the FMLA have a right under federal law to take leave if they qualify to do so. An employer is not permitted to reprimand the employee for taking this leave and the employer is not permitted to discriminate when granting FMLA leave.
What is the Employee Eligibility Under the Family and Medical Leave Act?
In order for an employee to be eligible for coverage under the FMLA, an employee is required to meet three criteria, including that the employee must:
- Have worked for the employer for the previous 12 months;
- Have worked at least 1,250 hours over the last twelve months; and
- Be employed by an employer covered under the Family and Medical Leave Act.
In addition to the criteria listed above, the employee is also required to have a qualifying life event occur which would trigger a need for FMLA leave. Examples of qualifying life events include:
- The birth and care of a newborn child or children;
- The placement of a fostered or adopted or child who was placed within 1 year since applying for leave;
- The employee having a need to care for an immediate family member who has a serious health condition;
- The employee has a serious condition which makes them unable to perform essential functions of their job, which includes pregnancy or prenatal care; or
- The employee’s spouse, parent, or child is an active military member who is called to active duty.
Generally, an employee cannot lose their job if they take FMLA leave. In addition, an employer cannot reprimand the employee for taking FMLA leave or use the leave as an adverse factor in any future employment evaluations, for example, promotions or raises.
What about the Family and Medical Leave Laws in New Jersey?
Employers in every state, including New Jersey, are required to follow the Family and Medical Leave Act. States such as New Jersey also have their own laws which permit employees to take time off for family and medical reasons.
Although the federal and New Jersey state laws may appear similar, there are some important differences that an employment attorney can help an individual decipher.
How Do I Know if My Employer is Covered by the FMLA?
An employer is covered by the FMLA if they meet the following criteria:
- The business is a private-sector business which employs 50 or more employees in 20 or more workweeks in the current or preceding year, including a joint employer or successor in interest to a covered employer;
- The entity is a public agency, either federal, state, or local, no matter how many employees it employs;
- The entity is a private or public elementary or secondary school, regardless of the number of employees; or
- Employers are required to cover domestic violence leave if they have at least 25 employees.
What Type of Leave Am I Allowed Under New Jersey’s Laws?
New Jersey employees who are eligible are permitted to take leave for the care of a newborn or adopted child or to care for a family member who has a serious health condition. Family members may include partners in a civil union and parents-in-law.
An employee is eligible for this leave if they have worked for the employer for at least one year and if they have worked 1,000 hours in the past 12 months. In addition, employees in New Jersey are eligible for domestic violence leave if they or a family member has been a victim of domestic violence or a sexually violent crime.
There is a temporary disability insurance program in New Jersey which will pay an eligible employee who is temporarily disabled, including pregnant, up to ⅔ of their wages. This disability insurance program also funds New Jersey’s paid family leave law.
An eligible employee who is caring for a newborn, adopted child, or ill family member may receive the same benefits as those employees who are temporarily disabled.
For related information, see the following LegalMatch articles:
- Pregnancy Disability Leave Law in New Jersey;
- Maternity Leave Lawyer; and
- How to File a Complaint Under the FMLA.
For How Long Can I Leave My Job?
Similar to the federal FMLA provisions, an eligible employee may take up to 12 weeks of leave in any 24 month time frame. In addition, New Jersey does not require spouses to share their leave time.
If an employee requires domestic violence leave, they may take up to 20 days of leave in a 12 month period. In order to be eligible for this type of leave, the employee must have worked for their employer for at least 1 year and for at least 1,000 hours in the last 12 months.
Will My Employer Require Medical Certification?
Pursuant to New Jersey laws, the employee is not required to provide their employer with any medical certification which pertains to their fitness to return to work. They may, however, be required to show certification if their leave was for:
- The birth of a child;
- The adoption of a child; or
- The care of a family member who was seriously ill.
How Should I Request My Leave?
Similar to the federal FMLA requirements, an employee must provide their employer with reasonable notice of their expected leave and in a practicable manner. When possible, an employee will request leave 30 days in advance of the time needed for leave.
If the need for the leave arises from an unforeseeable situation, the employee should notify their employer as soon as they possibly can.
Do I Need an Employment Lawyer?
If you have any issues, questions, or concerns related to family and medical leave in New Jersey, an experienced New Jersey employment attorney can advise you on your best course of action. Your attorney can explain the requirements and ensure that you are eligible for the leave.
If your employer has broken any employment laws related to your leave, your attorney can assist you in building your case and represent you in court.