This week, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed AB 3975 into law, altering several aspects of the existing state-administered paid family and medical leave program. The bill was drafted to encourage more widespread use of state paid family and medical leave benefits. Unfortunately, as we are seeing in many states, the law expands definitions beyond the federal FMLA and extends paid leave periods.
Domestic and Sexual Violence: The enacted law establishes that an employee may access state paid family and medical leave benefits to seek medical attention for, or recover from, physical or psychological injuries caused by domestic or sexual violence suffered either by the employee personally, or by a qualifying family member. This qualified reason for paid family and medical leave is in addition to an employee caring for a new child, caring for a family member with a serious health condition, and caring for one’s own disability.
Duration of Paid Leave: The enacted law increases the duration of paid leave that eligible employees may take under the state program from 6 weeks to 12 weeks within a 12-month period.
Wage Replacement Rate: The law also increases the rate at which employees using paid family and medical leave benefits will have their lost wages replaced by the state benefit program. Under the existing program, wage replacement was limited to 66 percent of an employee’s base weekly wage. Under the new law, employees would be eligible to receive up to 85 percent of their base weekly wage, limited to a total benefit equal to 70 percent of the statewide average weekly wage.
Definition of Family Member: The enacted law broadly expands the definition of a “family member” for which an employee may take paid time off to provide care to. The existing law allowed employees to receive state benefits in order to care for an ill child, parent, spouse, domestic partner, or civil union partner. The language of the new law allows employees to access the same benefits to care for their siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, parents-in-law, any other individual related by blood to the employee, and any other individual whom the employee shows to have a close association with the employee which is the equivalent of a family relationship. This final catch-all term appears to drastically expand the definition of family member eligibility, but also requires employees to “show” the close association that they have with an individual in order for them to qualify for state benefits.
If you have any questions or concerns about the bill, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Article by Dillon Clair, Retirement and Compensation Policy Associate