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Under current law, New Jersey employees can take up to 12 weeks of time off to bond with a newborn baby, adopt or foster a child or care for a sick relative. The Family Leave Act guarantees employees job safety, as long as there are at least 30 employees in the workplace.
The Assembly on Monday will consider expanding the law to include smaller companies and establishments. If approved, the measure will guarantee employment reinstatement for workers taking family leave in companies with 20 or more employees. One year later, the employment reinstatement guarantee would extend to companies with 10 or more workers, and 12 months after that the threshold would be reduced again, to 5 employees.
New Jersey’s largest business group is not thrilled.
Elissa Frank, vice president of government affairs at the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, said the law would be especially detrimental for mom-and-pop businesses.
“Putting a mandate on them to hold that job open when the person is out on leave makes it just unmanageable,” she said.
She said if an employee goes out on family leave and a temporary worker becomes a good fit for the role, and the company wants to retain them permanently, they won’t be able to under the new update.
Eric Richard, the legislative director for the New Jersey AFL-CIO, said modifying the Family Leave Act to cover employees in smaller companies is a matter of fairness.
“Every employee pays for this benefit, there’s a payroll deduction that comes out of every worker’s paycheck that funds the paid family leave program,” he said.
Richard said it makes no sense that approximately 1.5 million workers in smaller companies in the Garden State are afraid to take advantage of family leave “because they have no job protection, employers are allowed to fire those people.”