Earlier in the year, New Jersey enacted the Paid Family Leave Act into law, which created a Family Leave Insurance ("FLI") Program. (A previous Day Pitney alert about the passage of the Paid Family Leave Act can be found here.) This program provides employees with compensation for up to six weeks of leave per year to care for a new child or a sick family member.

Employee wage deductions to fund the program begin on January 1, 2009. Employees will begin receiving paid family leave benefits for submitted claims beginning on July 1, 2009. Unlike the New Jersey Family Leave Act, all New Jersey employers that are subject to the New Jersey Unemployment Compensation Law are subject to the FLI Program, regardless of the number of individuals that they employ.

Of most immediate interest to employers is an impending deadline for employee notification. The New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development (LWD) has released a poster that explains program information and employee rights under the FLI Program. Employers are obligated to both post and provide a written copy of the notification to employees by December 15, 2008. The poster must be displayed conspicuously in a place accessible by all employees. The written notification may be electronically transmitted to employees. After December 15, employers must also provide a copy of the written notification:

  1. at the time of an employee's hire;
  2. whenever an employee notifies the employer that he or she is taking family care leave; and
  3. at any time upon the first request by an employee for a copy of the notification.

A copy of the required poster and notification can be downloaded from the LWD website at:

http://lwd.state.nj.us/labor/fli/content/emp_requirements.html.

In addition, the LWD has recently issued proposed regulations implementing the FLI Program, which address the procedure for filing a claim for family leave benefits. An employee will be required to give prior notice to his employer of any family leave for which he is seeking benefits. In the case of care for a newborn or newly adopted child, no less than 30 days notice is required. In the case of care for a family member with a serious health condition, employees must give prior notice in "a reasonable and practicable manner," unless an emergency makes prior notice impossible.

The Paid Family Leave Act also allows employers to require that an employee use up to, but no more than, two weeks of paid sick, vacation, or other paid time off at the outset of their paid family leave. The employee's entitlement to paid family leave benefits will be reduced by the amount of paid time off used by the employee, provided that the employer "within a reasonable and practicable time" notifies the state or private plan of the paid time off used. Employers that are subject to the federal Family Medical Leave Act or the New Jersey Family Leave Act should provide prior notification to employees (such as through dissemination of a policy) if they plan to require that employees taking family leave utilize paid time off at the outset.