New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has signed the New Jersey Security and Financial Empowerment Act (NJ SAFE Act) into law, with an effective date of October 1, 2013.
Covering private and public employers with 25 or more employees, the Act provides an eligible employee who has been the victim of a domestic violence incident or a sexually violent offense with up to 20 days of leave. An eligible employee may request leave under this Act each time an incident or offense occurs and within one year of the incident or offense. The Act also permits an eligible employee to take leave when his or her child, parent, spouse, domestic partner or civil union partner has been the victim of such an incident or offense.
The purpose of the leave is to allow the employee time to handle issues arising from the domestic violence incident or sexually violent offense, such as seeking medical attention or recovering from physical or psychological injuries caused by the incident; obtaining services from victim services organizations; obtaining psychological or other counseling; relocating temporarily or permanently, or taking other safety precautions against future incidents; seeking legal assistance related to or derived from the incident, or seeking other remedies to ensure health and safety; or attending, participating in or preparing for a criminal or civil court proceeding relating to an incident.
The Act includes employee notice and documentation requirements and permits an employer to require an employee to exhaust his or her accrued paid leave during the 20-day leave period. The employee's leave under state or federal family and medical leave laws also will be counted concurrently with leave under this Act. The Act prohibits discrimination, harassment and retaliation against employees who have requested leave under the Act.
Individuals have a private right of action under the statute. Remedies include reinstatement, compensation for lost wages and benefits, an injunction to restrain continued violations and reasonable attorneys' fees and costs. In addition, an employer may be assessed a civil fine of $1,000 or up to $2,000 for a first-time violation, and any subsequent violations may result in a fine of up to $5,000.