The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the New Jersey Family Leave Act (NJFLA) are programs enacted to protect employees while on leave for specific family and medical situations. The FMLA guarantees employees up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave from work without worry over interruptions in health benefits or losing one's job. The NJFLA covers the same twelve-week time period, with the same guarantees of continued benefits and employment.
In Fort Lee, New Jersey, or the surrounding area, if you believe your rights under the FMLA and NJFLA have been violated, you need an experienced employment law attorney who can identify the violations and advocate your rights with compassion and strategic legal arguments. The partners at Kim & Feliz, LLC have the insight and skill to defend your rights. Contact us today.
What businesses in New Jersey must comply with FMLA?
In New Jersey, there are three categories of businesses that must comply with the FMLA:
- All businesses with 50 or more employees employed for at least 20 workweeks in the preceding or current year;
- All government agencies -- whether local, state, or federal; and
- Public or private elementary or secondary school, regardless of the number of employees it employs.
Who is eligible for leave under the FMLA?
You may need to take off significant time from work to address a family or medical situation. For many of you, this can be a scary time, and you may wonder whether your job is at risk or not. The good news is: FMLA protects your job if you qualify.
You are protected by FMLA if:
- You work for a covered employer.
- Your job has 50 or more employees within 75 miles.
- You've worked with the same employer for 12 months.
- You've worked 1,250 hours during the 12 months preceding the leave.
What are employee entitlements under the FMLA?
If you're eligible for FMLA leave, you are entitled to take unpaid leave for specified family and medical reasons and your health insurance coverage must remain the same. You also have the right to return to your same or similar position unless you're a key employee.
You are entitled to 12 workweeks of leave in a 12-month period for any of the following circumstances:
- A serious medical condition that makes you unable to perform the essential functions of your job;
- Caring for your spouse, child, or parent who has a serious medical condition;
- The birth and care of your newborn child within one year of the birth;
- Caring for your newly adopted or fostered child within one year of the placement; or
- Circumstances arising out of your spouse, child, or parent's military duty.
New Addition to the Family
Whether you give birth, foster, or adopt a child you need time to bond with and care for your child. Fathers and mothers both have the right to FMLA leave and are required to take the leave within one year of the child becoming a part of your family. The leave is generally required to be one block of time unless your job allows otherwise.
Employees caring for a child, regardless of biological or legal relationship, may be entitled to FMLA leave if they are responsible for that child.
Caring for a Family Member
Both federal and state laws allow an employee to leave work for up to 12 weeks to care for a family member who is suffering from a serious health condition. While most commonly used to care for sick children in the family, FMLA allows leave to also care for your spouse or parent if they are suffering from a health condition. Additionally, the NJFLA allows you to take leave if you need to care for your mother- or father-in-law.
Military Family Member
If your loved one is in the military, you are eligible for more leave. In that case, you can take 26 workweeks of leave during a 12-month period to care for a covered service member with a serious medical condition who is your spouse, child, or parent.
What is Considered a Serious Health Condition under the FMLA?
You are eligible for FMLA leave because of your own serious medical condition or the serious medical condition of your child, spouse, or parent. Serious health conditions include:
- Pregnancy, which includes incapacity from morning sickness, bed rest, and prenatal appointments;
- Illness or injury that requires an overnight stay in a medical care facility;
- Incapacitating conditions that require you or your family to undergo more than three consecutive days of care; and/or
- Chronic health conditions that require treatment at least twice a year.
Do employees get paid while on FMLA leave?
Not necessarily. The law requires unpaid leave, but you can elect or your job may require you to use your paid vacation leave, paid sick leave, or family leave. You are required to comply with your employer's policy regarding leave. If you take paid leave, you are still protected under FMLA.
What are employee responsibilities under the FMLA?
You and your employer have to follow guidelines regarding the use of FMLA leave. You are required to give your job appropriate notice that you are taking leave. If you know in advance, you must give your employer at least a 30-day notice. Examples include scheduling surgery or pregnancies.
In the cases where the condition is unexpected, like an accident, you are required to notify your employer as soon as possible. You are required to comply with your employer's procedures. You are not required to disclose your actual diagnosis to your employer but do need to provide information indicating that your leave is protected by FMLA and include information, like the amount of time you are required to stay in the hospital.
You will need to have ongoing communication with your employer while you are on leave. You will need to update your job if the needed amount of leave changes -- whether the leave will be longer or shorter than initially stated.
What are employer responsibilities under the FMLA?
Once you request FMLA leave, your employer has five business days to let you know whether you're eligible. If your employer finds you are ineligible, the employer must inform you of at least one reason explaining the finding. If you are eligible, your employer must give you notice of your rights and responsibilities under the Act.
The notice must include:
- Your right to return to your job at the end of the leave.
- Your right to unpaid and/or paid leave.
- Your right to maintain your health insurance benefits and whether you will be required to pay the premium.
- Whether you will be required to provide your employer with medical certification.
- The 12-month period being used to keep track of your leave. This is to ensure you know how your 12-month period is measured so that you know how much leave you actually have.
As noted, when you return to work, your employer is required to return you to the same job that you had when you left or one that is nearly the same. If it's not exactly the same job, the new position must include:
- The same pay, substantially similar duties and responsibilities;
- The same benefits;
- The same work schedule; and
- The same location or near the same location.
There is an exception for certain key employees who may not be guaranteed to return to the same position after FMLA leave. A key employee is salaried and one of the highest paid 10% of all employees within 75 miles of the employee's worksite.
Contact an FMLA Attorney in Fort Lee NJ Today
For all of your employment and FMLA questions, contact Kim & Feliz, LLC today. Our experienced attorneys can help make sure that you are treated fairly and in accordance with the law and its protections. Contact us online or call (201) 585-2250 to schedule an appointment.