The State of New Jersey Has Initiated Sweeping Changes Regarding Their FMLA Act; Barron, Baker and Posternock, LLP Discuss How this Affects Business

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The State of New Jersey has initiated sweeping changes regarding their FMLA act. Find out how this affects you and your business.

After much debate, controversy and intense lobbying from labor unions, employee advocates and business interests , the New Jersey Legislature finally passed a bill that will provide Temporary Disability Benefits (TDI) to employees who leave work to care for sick family members or newborn or adopted children. The scope of the law is broad and will apply to just about every employer and employee in the State. By passing this law, which will become effective on January 1, 2009, New Jersey joins only California and Washington as states that provide paid family leave to its workers.

Mr. Barron translates, "At its core, the legislation now provides up to six weeks of paid leave in the form of Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) benefits for eligible workers to care for a newly born or adopted child or a sick family member. The employees will receive two-thirds of their usually weekly wage up to a maximum of $524 a week. The benefit will be paid for by an employee payroll deduction that will be approximately $33.00 per year for each working employee. It is estimated that employers will not have to contribute to this benefit, at least in the short term. However, employers will still face the costs of lost productivity and the need to hire temporary help".

The definitions used in the legislative are important. "Family Temporary Disability Leave" means leave taken to provide "care" for a family member who is suffering from a serious medical condition or for a child within 12 months of its birth or adoption.. The term "care" has the same meaning as in the Family Leave Act, and includes "physical care, emotional support, visitation, assistance in treatment, transportation, assistance with essential daily living matters and personal attendant services." That obviously covers a lot of situations that may not appear especially serious to others. A "serious health condition" means an illness, injury or impairment or physical or mental condition which requires inpatient care in a hospital, hospice or residential medical care facility or continuing medical treatment or supervision by a health care provider. However, a health care provider can still certify that a serious medical condition exists even where there is no confinement or continuing medical treatment or supervision by a health care provider.

Presumably, to be eligible for this form of TDI an employee would have to meet the requirement of twenty weeks of New Jersey covered employment within the 52 calendar weeks preceding the week that leave is requested. The leave is for a total of six weeks and may be taken intermittently up to 42 individual days within a 12 month period. The family leave is in addition to any personal disability leave an employee takes, including TDI taken for the birth of a child (up to 12 weeks). There is an initial seven day period at the beginning of the leave that is not compensable unless the leave extends for at least three consecutive weeks, at which point the initial period also becomes compensable. If an employee takes intermittent leave, benefits become payable after on the first day of leave taken after the first one-week period following the start of the leave, and if leave continues beyond the first three weeks that leave is taken, then the benefits apply to the first week.

Mr. Barron cautions, "This act may create many pitfalls and problems for employers. Coordinating this benefit with those provided by private disability plans and with rights available under collective bargaining agreements, the New Jersey Family Leave Act and the federal Family Medical Act may be difficult and challenging".

If you would like assistance in helping you understand your rights and obligation under this new law, please contact Barron, Baker and Posternock at http://www.barpostlaw.com. -Tom Barron

Background: S-786 calls for six weeks of Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) benefits (down from 10 weeks) to workers to care for a newly born or adopted child, or a sick family member. This leave is in addition to the TDI benefits that women now receive for childbirth. Employees utilizing this leave would receive two-thirds of their usual wage, a maximum of $524 a week (2008 rate).

***The information included in this newsletter is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and electronic mail. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.

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