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Gov. Phil Murphy recently signed legislation expanding New Jersey’s existing Family Leave Act (FLA) to cover employees caring for family members during the coronavirus health emergency, and the law firm Connell Foley has analyzed what it means for employers.

The FLA entitles eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid job-protected leave in a 24-month period, but only under certain conditions. The law applies to all business with 30 or more employees. The bill signed by Murphy on April 14 added coronavirus-related item to the list of reasons the FLA can be used.

According to attorneys Michael Shadiack and Lauren Iannaccone, “The FLA’s definition of ‘family leave’ was amended to include instances when a state of emergency is declared regarding an epidemic or a communicable disease that:

  • requires in-home care or treatment of a child due to closure of the child’s school or place of care by a public official;
  • prompts a public health authority to require certain measures as a result of a communicable disease because the presence of a family member in need of care in the community would jeopardize the health of others; or
  • results in a healthcare provider or public health authority recommendation that a family member in need of care by the employee voluntarily undergo self-quarantine.”

Employers will not be able to claim grievous economic injury to be able to refuse the leave request, as they would in cases where there is no state of emergency declared.

The leave is retroactive to March 25, so Shadiack and Iannaccone advise employers “to re-evaluate the status of any employee who requested or is on leave to care for a family member during the COVID-19 outbreak to ensure the employer is properly addressing any such leave request given the amendment to the FLA.”

Connell Foley is NJBIA’s Employment Law Resources provider.

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