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Paid Family Leave

New Jersey is one of only three states in the country, along with California and the District of Columbia, that grants paid family leave to employees to care for their same-sex partners.   New Jersey’s paid family leave law is a terrific but complex law, and this Garden State Equality issue brief provides only highlights.  If you would like further details about the law, the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development website has a very detailed Frequently Asked Questions page.

To be sure, this page does not constitute legal advice.  If you would like to consult with an employment attorney about taking family leave, a list of LGBT-friendly attorneys in New Jersey is at Garden State Equality’s sister website, www.EqualityCompanies.com.

New Jersey’s paid family leave law, which took effect in 2009, covers both civil union partners and domestic partners.   To avail yourself of the law, you and your partner must be in a civil union, or in a domestic partnership that you entered into before the New Jersey civil union law took effect in 2007, or have gotten married in another state so that your marriage is recognized as a civil union in New Jersey.

Under the New Jersey paid family leave law, employees receive two-thirds of their usual wages, up to a maximum of $561 per week, to take time off to care for a child, parent, spouse, domestic partner, or civil union partner with a serious health condition, or to bond with a new child within 12 months of the child’s birth or placement for adoption.   The New Jersey paid family leave law defines a serious health condition as an illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition which requires inpatient care, continuing medical treatment or supervision.

An employee taking can take paid family leave for up to six weeks of leave within any 12-month period.  The six weeks per every 12 months can be taken either all at once, or a day or days at a time if it’s medically necessary – for instance, if your spouse or partner has a weekly medical need.

Under the New Jersey paid family leave law, unless the paid leave is needed for a medical emergency, an employee is required to provide the em­ployer with notice at least 15 days in ad­vance of the paid leave.  When the employee takes leave to care for a seriously ill family member, the employee must provide certification by a health care provider describing the nature and duration of the family member’s medical condition; the need for the employee’s participation in providing care; and how much time the employee will need for such care.

An employee planning to use paid family leave for the birth or adoption of a child must give the em­ployer at least 30 days notice.

After applying for paid family leave, an employee has a seven-day waiting period before receiving benefits. However, an employee who is out for more than three weeks can receive benefits for the waiting period, too.

Unlike two other laws that provide unpaid family leave – the federal family leave law and the older New Jersey unpaid family leave law – the New Jersey paid family leave law covers all employers subject to the New Jersey unemployment compensation laws, regardless of how many employees the company has.

The New Jersey paid family leave law does not alter an employee’s rights under the federal family leave law or the older New Jersey unpaid family leave law.  If an employee in New Jersey is eligible for unpaid leave under federal or state law, paid leave under the New Jersey paid family leave law would run concurrently with the unpaid leave.

Under the older New Jersey unpaid family leave law, an employee can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave within a 12 months period.  That would leave up to six additional unpaid weeks that an employee in New Jersey could take if she avails herself of all six paid weeks’ leave under the New Jersey paid family leave law.  However, the older New Jersey unpaid family leave law has more stringent requirements for which employees are eligible, including but not limited to a requirement that the employee’s work location have at least 50 employees.  Again, the New Jersey paid family leave law has no requirement of employer size.

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