The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in New Jersey is designed to protect an employee’s job should a medical emergency occur, causing the employee to take an extended leave of absence from work. The purpose of this 1993 Act is to help employees focus on their medical issues at hand that affect them, their spouse, their children, or their parents, and not worry about whether or not they have a job to come back to. Denying a qualified employee the right to take this leave or retaliating against the employee who chooses to take this leave is illegal. For over 25 years, the experienced attorneys at the Derek Smith Law Group have helped employees whose employers violated the FMLA and helped them get the compensation they deserve.
The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was enacted in 1993 to help employees keep their job while they attend to medical issues. Under the FMLA, employees that have worked for a company that has 50 or more employees in a 75 mile radius for at least a 12 month period can take an unpaid leave for up to 12 weeks in a 12 month period, as long as the employee has worked at least 1,250 hours (or 156 days) in that 12 month period. In other words, employees of larger companies that work more than 24 hours a week can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the following reasons:
- To undergo treatment and/or recovery for his or her own medical condition
- To help a child recover from an illness or injury
- The birth of a child
- The adoption or fostering of a child
- To help a parent recover from an injury or illness
- To help a spouse recover from an injury or illness
The 12 weeks can be taken at once or intermittently throughout a 12-month period. When using FMLA, the employer must hold your job (or a comparable job) for you and must allow you to maintain and keep your group health insurance benefits. The leave is unpaid unless you choose to use available PTO to pay your salary for all or part of the leave.
Military families are allowed 26 weeks’ leave to attend to any issues relating to military leave or training, such as finding new childcare in light of a military spouse is deployed, or having to attend military briefings and training.
New Jersey has two separate types of medical leave options for employees. The New Jersey Family Leave Act (NJFLA) helps employees who work have worked at least 1,000 hours in a 12-month period for a company of 30 or more employees or government entities of all sizes. Under NJFLQ, the employee is entitled to take 12 weeks of unpaid leave within a 24-month period to:
- Help a child recover from an illness or injury
- To bond with a newborn or newly adopted or fostered child
- Help a parent recover from an injury or illness
- Help a parent-in-law from an injury or illness
- Help a spouse recover from an injury or illness
As with the FMLA, the NJFLA can be taken at once or intermittently throughout the 24-month period. The employer must hold your job or a comparable job and must allow you to maintain your group health insurance benefits throughout your leave.
Employees, not contractors, who live and work in New Jersey can also qualify for Family Leave Insurance. Family Leave Insurance is a payroll deduction that is mandated by the State of New Jersey and allows employees to take up to 6 weeks of paid leave to:
- Bond with newborn babies, adopted children, or foster children
- Care for parents, spouse, parents-in-law, children, siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, domestic partners, blood relatives, and people that are like family with a serious medical condition
To use Family Leave Insurance, you are required to completed forms available online and have health providers complete required paperwork available online. The pay you receive will be less than your normal pay (like disability) and it comes from the state and not the employer.
Many employers may attempt to deny you FMLA leave or retaliate against you for taking the FMLA leave you are entitled to take. These are violations of the FMLA and are illegal. Here are some examples of FMLA violations in New Jersey:
- Refusing to provide information regarding FMLA to employees
- Refusing qualified employees, the right to take FMLA
- Demoting an employee who took FMLA to care for her seriously ill husband
- Terminating a military person who took FMLA to attend training
- Demoting a male employee who takes FMLA to bond with his newborn child
- Demoting a female employee who take FMLA after giving birth
- Terminating adoptive or foster parents for taking FMLA to bond with their new adopted or foster child
- Denying an employee group medical benefits payment options to maintain the coverage while using FMLA
- Terminating an employee who is taking FMLA 2 time a week to take his or her parent to chemo treatments
Under FMLA, if an employer violated your rights, you have a time limit of 2 years to file a lawsuit.
Under NJFLA, there is no specified statute of limitations. However, courts have decided that anywhere from 2 to 6 years can be an appropriate time limit to file a claim under the law.
As a victim of an FMLA violation in New Jersey, the courts may grant certain remedies to help you and your family get the compensation you deserve. Some of these remedies may include:
- Reinstatement of employment
- Reinstatement of benefits
- Back pay
- Future pay
- Attorney’s fees
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Punitive damages
FMLA lawsuits can settle within 4 to 6 months or take a year or more to be resolved. If your employer is willing to negotiate a fair and reasonable settlement, your case will likely settle within 4 to 6 weeks and you can get back to work or back to caring for your family.
If your employer insists on taking the case to trial, the process can take a year or longer just to prepare the case, the trial may last an additional few days to several weeks before a judgment is entered.
If your rights under the FMLA have been violated by your employer, there are a few things you can do right now as you decide to bring the case to court.
- Contact an experienced FMLA attorney immediately.
- Gather evidence. Make sure you gather as much evidence as you can. Information, such as emails, text messages, and conversation notes, along with witness information and information relating to everyone involved with the incident(s), can be very helpful in proving your case.
- Do not waste time. Your statute of limitations is limited. Do not waster time making a decision and allow your statute of limitations to run out.
Dealing with an injury or serious illness in your family is stressful enough Having to worry about your job security and your health insurance benefits on top of this is torturous. If you have been the victim of FMLA violations in New Jersey, the experienced attorneys at Derek Smith Law Group can help. Contact us today at (973) 388-8625 for your free consultation. We do not collect any money until you win your case.