On July 17, 2013, Governor Christopher Christie signed into law the “New Jersey Security and Financial Empowerment Act,” which becomes effective on October 1, 2013. The Act provides new leave rights to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault and creates additional notice obligations for New Jersey employers.
The Act applies to public and private employers with 25 or more employees. Although the Act does not specify whether the employer must have 25 employees in New Jersey, we surmise that is not the case and that an employer with at least 25 employees anywhere is covered by the Act. Of course, only those employees who work in New Jersey are entitled to leave rights under the Act.
Under the Act, an eligible employee (defined as one who has been employed for at least 12 months and at least 1,000 base hours during the 12-month period immediately preceding the leave) (1) who is a victim of an incident of domestic violence or a sexually violent offense, or (2) whose child, parent, spouse, domestic partner, or civil union partner (hereinafter, “relative”) is such a victim, is entitled to 20 days of unpaid leave in the 12-month period following the incident of domestic violence or sexual assault. An employee is entitled to 20 days of leave for any subsequent incident of domestic violence/sexual assault within 12 months of that incident, however, the Act appears to limit an employee to no more than 20 days of leave over any 12-month period. The leave may be taken for a number of reasons, including to seek medical attention and psychological counseling.
The law permits employers to coordinate this new leave with other available leaves such as accrued paid vacation leave, personal leave, or medical or sick leave in addition to leaves covered by the New Jersey Family Leave Act and the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. Employers will be required to conspicuously display a notice of employees’ rights and obligations under the Act. Employees seeking leave under the Act must provide their employers with advance written notice when such leave is foreseeable, as far in advance as is reasonably practical under the circumstances. Finally, employers are prohibited from discriminating or retaliating against employees for exercising their rights under the Act. For further details on the reasons employees are eligible for leave, employers’ and employees’ notice obligations under the Act, and employers’ posting obligations, please see our article, “Domestic Violence Victim Leave Law Enacted in New Jersey.”