On March 25, the Governor of New Jersey signed Senate Bill 2304, amending the state’s Paid Sick Leave Act, the (unpaid) Family Leave Act, and the Temporary Disability Benefits and Family Leave Insurance programs to provide expanded benefits as a result of a declared state of emergency and outbreak of a communicable disease. Though the bill was passed in response to the COVID-19 epidemic, it was drafted so that it could apply more broadly as well. The changes in the law are effective immediately.
New Jersey Paid Sick Leave Act
While the law already contained provisions allowing for leave during a public health emergency, it added that an employee is also entitled to leave:
- due to a state of emergency declared by the Governor, or the issuance by a health care provider or the Commissioner of Health of a determination that an individual or family member’s presence in the community would jeopardize the health others.
- upon issuance by a health care provider or the Commissioner of Health or other public health authority of a determination that the presence in the community of the employee, or a member of the employee’s family in need of care by the employee, would jeopardize the health of others.
The bill also added a specific isolation/quarantine provision, directing that an employee is entitled to leave when:
- the employee undergoes isolation or quarantine, or cares for a family member in quarantine, as a result of suspected exposure to a communicable disease and a finding by the provider or authority that the presence in the community of the employee or family member would jeopardize the health of others.
New Jersey Family Leave Act
The NJ Family Leave Act (NJ FLA) was amended to provide that during a state of emergency declared by the Governor, or when indicated to be needed by the Commissioner of Health or other public health authority, the term “serious health condition” includes:
- an illness caused by an epidemic of a communicable disease, a known or suspected exposure to a communicable disease, or efforts to prevent spread of a communicable disease, which requires in-home care or treatment of a family member of the employee due to:
- the issuance by a healthcare provider or the commissioner or other public health authority of a determination that the presence in the community of a family member may jeopardize the health of others; and
- the recommendation, direction, or order of the provider or authority that the family member be isolated or quarantined because of suspected exposure to the communicable disease.
The NJ FLA was also amended to clarify that the key employee exemption which allows an employer to deny family leave under certain circumstances does not apply when an employee needs family leave due to a family member’s isolation or quarantine, or when a family member’s place of care is closed because of a state of emergency during an epidemic of a communicable disease, or a known or suspected exposure to a communicable disease.
New Jersey Temporary Disability Benefits and Family Leave Insurance
The bill provides that under the New Jersey Temporary Disability Benefits (TDB) program and the Family Leave Insurance (FLI) program, an employee can receive benefits for themselves or a family member for the same reasons as set forth for the NJ FLA above. Additionally, for an individual’s own leave under NJ TDB law, there is no 7-day waiting period for the new leave reasons related to an epidemic. There is no waiting period for NJ FLI benefits.
FINEOS continues to monitor federal, state, and local governments’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic and will provide updates as they are made available.