New Jersey Expands Protections of the Family Leave Act and Amends Mini-WARN Act Amid COVID-19 Pandemic
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New Jersey Expands Protections of the Family Leave Act and Amends Mini-WARN Act Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

Key Takeaways

  • New Jersey Senate Bill 2374 has expanded protections of the New Jersey Family Leave Act to employees taking time off to care for a family member during the COVID-19 outbreak

  • New Jersey Senate Bill 2353 further amends the New Jersey mini-WARN Act delaying amendments that were set to go into effect July 19, 2020

  • Significantly, the definition of “mass layoff” under NJ mini-WARN pursuant to Senate Bill 2353 now excludes layoffs that occur due to a national emergency

 

On April 14, 2020 New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation through Senate Bill S2374 that expands protections of the New Jersey Family Leave Act (NJFLA) to employees taking time off to care for a family member during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Previously, the NJFLA allowed eligible employees time off of work to care for a newborn, an adopted or foster child, or a family member with a serious health condition. The NJFLA allows employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid family leave in a 24-month period while protecting their job. Under the new legislation, employees will be eligible to leave to care for a family member as a result of an epidemic of a communicable disease (such as COVID-19), or efforts to prevent the spread of a communicable disease. This protection also extends to employees that require leave to provide care or treatment for their child if the child’s school or place of care is closed in response to a public health emergency.

On April 14, 2020, Gov. Murphy also signed Senate Bill 2353 into law, which further amends the New Jersey mini-WARN Act (NJ mini-WARN), which imposes obligations on certain companies during mass layoffs, terminations, or transfers of operations. S2353 delays amendments to NJ mini-WARN that were set to go into effect on July 19, 2020. These included requirements that:

  • An employer that has 100 or more employees or part-time employees must provide at least 90 days’ notice (previously 60 days’ notice was required, and applied only to full-time employees) before the first employee is discharged as part of a mass layoff, termination of operations or transfer of operations
  • An employer must provide discharged employees and part-time employees with severance pay equal to one week of pay for each full year of employment (previously employers were only required to pay severance as a penalty for failure to provide notice, and only to full time employees), and if the employer fails to provide the full 90 days’ notice, it must pay each employee an additional four weeks of severance pay
  • NJ mini-WARN is triggered by a layoff impacting 50 or more employees or part-time employees reporting to the establishment (previously triggered if 500 full time employees were impacted or 50 full time employees were impacted that represented one third or more of the total workforce)
  • The definition of “establishment” under the act includes a single location or a group of locations, including facilities located within the state (previously included just a single place of employment)

Pursuant to Senate Bill 2353, as of April 14, 2020, the foregoing amendments to NJ mini-WARN will no longer go in effect on July 19, 2020, and instead the effective date is delayed until 90 days after Gov. Murphy’s state of emergency stay-at-home executive order terminates. Significantly and as most employers had hoped, the new legislation now provides a notice exception for employers under the current pandemic. The definition of “mass layoff” under NJ mini-WARN pursuant to Senate Bill 2353 now excludes layoffs that occur due to a national emergency. This change is effective retroactively from March 9, 2020, and will provide companies with much-needed relief from the NJ mini-WARN obligations during the current public health crisis.

If you have any questions about these changes to the laws or how it may affect your business, contact: