By Marti Cardi, Chief Compliance Officer, and Megan Holstein, Senior Counsel, Compliance and Employment Law
Last week, New Jersey enacted the New Jersey Security and Financial Empowerment Act (NJ SAFE Act) which provides a workplace leave of absence for employees who are, or whose family members are, victims of domestic violence or a sexually violent offence. The new leave reason is effective October 1, 2013. The act includes the following:
- Employee Eligibility: An employee is eligible if the employee has worked:
- for a covered employer for at least 12 months; and
- not less than 1,000 hours during the 12-month period immediately preceding the leave.
NOTE: Because the law does not specify that the 12 months of service need to be the 12 months immediately preceding the leave, a reasonable interpretation of this eligibility requirement is to treat this in the same manner as for the federal FMLA – that the employee can aggregate nonconsecutive periods of work, with no greater than a 7-year break in service, to total 12 months of employment.
- Covered Employers: Private employers are covered by the act if they have 25 or more employees for each working day during each of 20 or more calendar workweeks in the current or immediately preceding calendar year. The state of New Jersey, its political subdivisions, and other public offices and agencies are also covered employers.
- Covered Relationships: An employee can take NJ SAFE Act leave if the employee or the employee’s child, parent, spouse, domestic or civil union partner (“family member”) is a victim of domestic or sexual violence.
- Leave Reasons: An eligible employee may use NJ SAFE Act leave for the following reasons related to the employee or the employee’s family member and due to domestic or sexual violence:
- seek medical attention for, or recover from, physical or psychological injuries;
- obtain services from a victim services organization;
- obtain psychological or other counseling;
- participate in safety planning, relocate, or take other safety measures;
- seek legal assistance or remedies to ensure the employee’s or the employee’s family member’s health and safety, including preparing for, or participating in, any civil or criminal legal proceeding; or
- attend, participate in, or prepare for a criminal or civil court proceeding.
- Length of Leave: An employee may take up to 20 days of unpaid leave in a 12-month period, to be used in the 12-month period following an incident of domestic or sexual violence. Leave may be used following multiple separate incidents of domestic or sexual violence, but may not total more than 20 days of leave in a 12-month period.
- Form of Leave: Leave may be taken continuously or intermittently in intervals of no less than 1 day.
- Concurrent with the FMLA and NJ FLA: If the employee’s absence qualifies under both the NJ SAFE Act and the federal Family and Medical Leave Act or the NJ Family Leave Act, leave will run concurrently with those laws.
- Use of PTO: An eligible employee can elect, or an employer can require, the employee to use any accrued paid vacation, personal, medical or sick leave during NJ SAFE Act leave.
- Employee Notice: An employer can require written notice of an employee’s need for leave. Notice must be provided as far in advance as is reasonable and practical under the circumstances.
- Employer notice: An employer must post notice of the NJ SAFE Act in a form and manner to be provided by the Commissioner of the Labor and Workforce Development (no poster is available yet).
- Certification/Documentation: An employer can require documentation verifying the need for leave. Examples of sufficient documentation provided by the act include a restraining order or other court documentation, letter from a prosecutor, medical documentation, or documentation provided by a shelter or domestic violence agency.
What Employers Must Do Now
New Jersey employers are responsible for compliance with the New Jersey Security and Financial Empowerment Act on October 1, 2013. In the meantime, employers should:
- Consider updating handbooks or employment policies to reflect this new leave reason;
- Once available from the NJ Commissioner of the Labor and Workforce Development, obtain and post notice of the law (if a poster is not available by the Act’s effective date, employers can post a copy of the Act);
- Train appropriate personnel (Human Resources, Benefits, etc.) on how to manage the new leave reason;
- Train supervisors and managers on the new type of leave so they can help spot covered absences and enlist HR assistance; and
- Communicate the new law to New Jersey employees.
Reed Group Will Be Ready for New Jersey by October 1, 2013!
If you are using Reed Group’s leave management services or software we will be ready by October 1st to manage NJ DV leave for your New Jersey employees. We will:
- Update our signature LeavePro™ leave management software to encompass the new leave law;
- Update eligibility letters and packets for New Jersey employees to reflect the parameters of the law;
- Train staff and update scripts to be ready to administer the new leave in time for its October 1st effective date; and
- Create a new chapter to address the NJ SAFE Act leave in LeaveAdvisor™.