NJBIA testified on Thursday against a bill that has returned in the new legislative session to require most of New Jersey’s smallest businesses to comply with the job reinstatement provisions of the New Jersey Family Leave Act.
Bill A-3451 (Quijano, D-20; Reynolds-Jackson, D-15; Coughlin, D-19) gradually lowers the employee threshold used to determine if a business is required to reinstate an employee after they take up to 12 weeks of family leave. Current law requires only businesses with 30 or more employees to reinstate the employee to their former position, but the legislation would lower that threshold to 20 in 2024, to 10 in 2025, and five in 2026.
The Assembly Appropriations Committee voted 7-4 along party lines to advance the bill to the full Assembly. All four Republican committee members voted against the measure, citing the burden it would place on small businesses. The full Assembly is scheduled to vote on the bill on Monday.
“Larger businesses are able to better provide coverage during a worker’s prolonged absence,” NJBIA Vice President of Government Affairs Elissa Frank said. “Most smaller businesses, however, are not financially equipped to bear the brunt of increased employee absenteeism and will experience higher labor costs resulting from the retaining and training of substitute workers.
“Anyone who supports this bill, at best, does not understand the impacts of it on our mom-and-pops or, at worst, cannot credibly state that they support New Jersey small businesses.”
In 2008, Gov. Jon Corzine signed the New Jersey Family Leave Act that struck a balance between worker protections and credible business concerns, based on months of negotiation between lawmakers.
During the last two-year legislative session, the Assembly passed a similar measure that threatened that negotiated 2008 compromise, but that bill did not receive a vote in the Senate because of concerns about the impacts on New Jersey’s smallest businesses.
“New Jersey small businesses have only received more burdens since the Family Leave Act became law,” Frank said. “This is not the time to add on to it.
“We appreciate Senate President Nick Scutari recognizing the damage this bill will do New Jersey’s small businesses and not posting it for a vote last session. We should instead honor the current law that was founded in compromise based on very valid reasons.”
Some supporters of the bill have inaccurately stated that New Jersey workers who are paying Family Leave Insurance cannot use it.
Current law, however, does not require job reinstatement to the same exact job after the family leave period for employers with 30 or fewer employees.
“Under this bill expanding Family Leave, a small business would be required to not only protect an employee’s job but ensure that they come back to the same exact position they left before going on leave,” Frank said.
“If an employee doesn’t return to that same job, they would have a right to sue their employer under the bill. Those litigation costs can be unduly burdensome.”
Frank added that both small employers and their other employees working for them would be greatly impacted by the bill.
“Think about the added costs to train a new worker, who you then won’t be able to afford to keep after 12 weeks,” Frank said. “What if that temp worker was actually better at the job than the person going out on leave?
“Also think about the current employee who steps up and shows they can handle job responsibilities better than the person who went out on leave. These are cases that essentially remove an employer’s right to make their own decision on what’s best for their business under the bill.
“The current Family Leave law is based on balance,” Frank added. “This bill, however, wildly offsets that balance to hurt our smallest businesses. It is policies like this that unfortunately earn New Jersey’s reputation of being wholly unsupportive and overburdensome to our businesses.”