Maternity Leave in New Jersey
Know Your Rights
by Amy Rudley, Esq.
Many women are extremely confused about their employment rights as expectant and new mothers. Many employers are also confused! When so few understand the various laws that apply, it is possible that you are also misinformed. This article is a short summary of a very complicated area of the law.
First, many employees are entitled to twelve weeks of unpaid leave ever year under the Federal Family Medical Leave Act for the care of their newly born or adopted child. While this time is unpaid, it may be used simultaneously with disability benefits or the employee’s paid time off. An employee cannot be terminated for utilizing leave, and must be offered the same or a comparable position upon their return. This law applies to those individuals who have worked for a total of 20 or more workweeks in the current or preceding calendar year and who are employed by a business with 50 or more employees.
Second, many employees are also entitled to twelve weeks of unpaid leave every two years under the New Jersey Family Leave Act upon a birth or adoption. While this time is also unpaid and may also be used simultaneously with disability benefits or the employee’s paid time off. In fact, some employers require simultaneous use. As above, an employee cannot be terminated for utilizing leave, and must be offered the same or a comparable position upon their return. This State law protects those who have worked for at least twelve months, for at least 1,000 hours in the previous twelve months, and who are employed by a company with 50 or more employees.
Third, New Jersey has recently enacted the Paid Family Leave Law, as part of New Jersey Temporary Disability Insurance Law. Under this law, qualified employees are entitled to receive paid leave for 6 weeks in each 12 month period to care for a newborn or adopted child. While the Act does not require an employer to maintain the position for an employee taking leave, the employee may be protected if using their Paid Family Leave Act time simultaneously with their time under the above Family Leave and New Jersey Family Leave Acts, which both provide unpaid leave in certain circumstances and which both protect the job of those taking leave.
This newer law is significant in that it has allowed many employees to actually take advantage of the unpaid leave laws, due to its benefit amount. Previously, many new mothers would have desired to take leave beyond their disability period, but were unable to remain out of work after their disability benefits expired.
Finally, as it is commonly understood, many employees in the State of New Jersey are also entitled to temporary disability benefits. The disability laws are fairly straightforward when it comes to pregnancy and, for qualified employees, allow a period of benefit for four weeks before birth and between six and eight weeks following birth in a normal pregnancy.
Even a straightforward concept like maternity leave can become complex with so many laws involved. Each of these laws is extensive and cannot be fully explored in a short article. Due to the complicated nature of the laws, there is potential for abuse by employees and potential for retaliation by employers. As you can see, many legal issues can arise when employees take a period of maternity leave. My firm has attorneys who specialize in protecting the rights of both employers and employees and will be happy to assist you with any questions or concerns.
**This article is for informational purposes only, should not be considered legal advice, and does not constitute an attorney client relationship. Consult with an attorney of your selection if you have specific questions.
Amy Rudley is a lifetime resident of Gloucester County leaving briefly to obtain her Bachelor of Science from the University of Delaware and her law degree from Rutgers University.
She has since practiced law in South Jersey. She serves as a volunteer to the Robins’ Nest, a volunteer member of the MBCA Scholarship Committee and a volunteer mediator for the New Jersey State Court.
Amy is a member of the Cooper Levenson Law Firm, a National Law Firm handling all types of legal matters. Amy is licensed to practice law in NJ & PA and resides in Pitman with her husband, Dan, and daughters Kendall and Erin.
Please feel free to contact Amy to determine whether she or her firm can assist you in your legal matters at: ARUDLEY@cooperlevenson.com