New Jersey Governor Chris Christie recently signed into the law the New Jersey Security and Financial Empowerment Act (NJ SAFE Act).  The NJ SAFE Act, which will go into effect on October 1, 2013, requires both private and public employers with twenty-five (25) or more employees to provide twenty (20) days of unpaid leave to an employee who is the victim of domestic violence or a sexually violent offense.   The Act also allows an employee to take such leave when the victim of domestic violence or sexually violent offense is the employee’s child, parent, spouse, domestic partner or civil union partner. 

Under the SAFE Act, an employee may elect, or the employer may require, the employee to take accrued PTO time during the leave.   The new law also contains certain employee notice and documentation requirements and will have an impact on an employee’s FMLA/NJFLA leave.   Accordingly, employers must review and revise their leave of absence policies to maintain compliance with the Act.

Under the Act, individual employees can bring a private cause of action and employers can be fined of $1,000 or up to $2,000 for the first violation and up to $5,000 for any subsequent violation of the Act.  The SAFE Act further prohibits employers from committing or threatening termination, harassment, retaliation or discrimination against any employee who exercises his or her rights under the Act.