Effective October 1, 2013, the New Jersey SAFE Act (“SAFE Act”) will require many New Jersey employers to provide up to 20 days of unpaid and job-protected leave in a year to victims (and close family members of victims) of domestic violence or sexual assault. New Jersey employers should consider revising their existing leave policies to reflect material differences in the new leave requirements provided under the SAFE Act, relative to the leave requirements provided under similar laws such as the New Jersey Family Leave Act (“NJ FLA”) and the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). In addition, covered employers should post a conspicuous notice of employees’ rights under the SAFE Act, in such form as the Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development will publish (but has not yet published).
The SAFE Act will apply to New Jersey employers that have employed 25 or more employees for 20 or more work weeks during the current or preceding calendar year. In contrast, the NJ FLA and the FMLA apply to employers that are twice as large (i.e., that have employed 50 or more employees for 20 or more work weeks during the current or preceding calendar year).
An employee will be eligible for leave under the SAFE Act (like under the NJ FLA) if she or he has worked for a covered employer for at least 12 months and has worked at least 1,000 hours for that employer during the last 12 months. Such an employee may take leave (continuously or intermittently) under the SAFE Act if the employee or his or her parent, child, spouse, domestic partner, or civil union spouse is a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault. Eligible reasons for leave under the SAFE Act include:
Seeking medical attention or recovering from physical or psychological injuries suffered
Obtaining services from a victim services organization
Participating in safety planning, relocating, or taking other actions to increase the safety of the victim or his or her close family members
Seeking legal assistance or remedies to ensure the safety of the victim or his or her close family members
Participating in court proceedings relating to an incident of domestic violence or sexual assault
The SAFE Act requires employees to provide advance written notice of leave requests, to the extent that such need for leave is foreseeable. Employers may require appropriate documentation of the reasons for requesting leave (but only on a strictly confidential basis).
Employers may require employees to take leave under the SAFE Act concurrently with accrued and unused paid leave. If an employee requests leave for reasons covered by both the SAFE Act and the NJ FLA or the FMLA, then the leave taken will count simultaneously against the employee’s entitlement under each respective law.
In summary, New Jersey employers should assess whether the SAFE Act applies to them, and if so, ensure that their current leave policies comply with the new law’s requirements. In addition, covered employers should post the required notice once it is published by the Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development.