Fired for taking family leave? NJ group seeks to eliminate ‘loophole’ in law
🔵 One NJ rule handles Family Leave insurance, while another handles job protection
🔵 A think tank claims that 840,000 NJ workers lack Family Leave job protection
🔵 The 'loophole' can be easily fixed, the group says
If part of your paycheck is devoted to funding New Jersey's Family Leave insurance program, you're eligible to take such leave in order to care for a newborn or a sick loved one, as long as you've been on the job for long enough.
But should you opt for the perk, it's not a guarantee that your job will be waiting for you when you'd like to return to work.
More than one in five workers in New Jersey, or 840,000 individuals, can still get fired for taking paid family leave, according to a report released by New Jersey Policy Perspective.
The think tank notes that job protection for family leave is covered by a different law from family leave insurance. Job protection only comes into play when an employer has 30 or more workers. Those with smaller rosters, under current New Jersey law, are not blocked from firing or demoting a worker for taking advantage of the paid family leave offer.
Businesses with fewer than 30 employees make up nearly 90% of all New Jersey businesses, according to the report.
"This is an artifact of two different programs that were developed at different times," Peter Chen, senior policy analyst with NJPP, told New Jersey 101.5. "You could be paying into the program, you could take the time off, but your employer isn't required to keep you on board."
There's no reason for so many working New Jerseyans to be paying into a program that they "can't use for fear of being fired," Chen said.
Beyond the 30-worker threshold, New Jersey's law also states that an employee needs to have worked for a year, or for 1,000 hours within 12 months, in order to be eligible for job protection.
"There's really no reason why somebody who has a child, somebody who has an aging parent or family member who needs care, should have to choose between taking leave or losing their job," Chen said.
New Jersey Family Leave Insurance offers to cover up to 85% of a worker's pay. As of 2023, one must have worked 20 weeks earning at least $260 weekly in order to be eligible, or have earned a total of $13,000 over a 12-month period leading up to their application.
This "loophole" in New Jersey's rules, Chen suggested, can easily be addressed through legislation. Ideally, he said, if you're eligible for the Family Leave payment, you'd be an automatic for job protection as well.