Know Your Rights

Knowledge is power! As you navigate caring for yourself and your loved ones while earning a paycheck, a combination of federal, state, and local workplace laws can help ensure you are free from discrimination and have the time and support you need.

 

This state-by-state guide is organized into five tabs based on the situations that may be prompting you to seek information about your legal rights. Many of the laws we address overlap and can be used for different purposes, and are therefore discussed under more than one tab.

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New Jersey

Staying healthy at work while you are pregnant is sometimes challenging: you may be dealing with morning sickness, back pain, or doctor’s appointments every few weeks. For women who have suffered a miscarriage, you may need to take time off for recovery. U.S., New Jersey, and local laws can help you stay healthy at work, give you time off when you need it, and protect you from pregnancy discrimination.

Pregnancy Discrimination

  • The Pregnancy Discrimination Act makes it illegal for any employer in the U.S. with 15 or more workers to treat employees unfairly because they are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or have experienced a pregnancy loss. That means:
    • Your boss can’t fire you or cut your hours when they find out that you’re pregnant or trying to get pregnant—you have the right to keep working as long as you can still do your job. You also have the right to be free from harassment at work because you are pregnant.
    • If your employer asks you about your pregnancy or plans to have children in a job interview, that may be evidence of pregnancy discrimination.
    • Your employer can’t treat you differently from other workers just because you are pregnant or have had a miscarriage. In 2015, the Supreme Court decided a case where it clarified what this means. The Court said that employers may not put a “significant burden” on pregnant employees. How do you know what’s a significant burden? Start looking around at how your employer treats other, non-pregnant employees who have needed an accommodation at work. For example, does your employer have a policy of giving light duty only to those with on-the-job injuries? Or did they have no problem helping out folks with non-pregnancy-related disabilities, but sent all the pregnant women out onto unpaid leave? If so, this could be evidence of pregnancy discrimination. It’s best to collect all the evidence you can (policies, employee handbooks or manuals, digging around to find out how others have been treated) and to discuss your particular situation with an attorney.
  • The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination also bans pregnancy discrimination, and covers all employers regardless of size.

Workplace Accommodations

If you need changes at work to stay healthy on the job, the laws below can help. In addition, click the green button to learn how to talk with your boss about your pregnancy and request an accommodation if you need one.

  • Under New Jersey’s pregnancy accommodations law, if you need a “reasonable accommodation” because of your pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical condition, your employer has to give it to you unless it would be really difficult or expensive. This means:
    • Your boss can’t just fire you if you ask for a bigger uniform, a stool to sit on, or light duty while you are pregnant—they have to give you what you need to stay healthy at work, unless your employer can show that it would seriously harm the business.
    • You must ask for the accommodation based on the advice of your physician.
    • Examples of accommodations explicitly covered by the law include bathroom breaks, breaks to drink water, periodic rest, assistance with manual labor, job restructuring or modified work schedules, temporary transfers to less strenuous or hazardous work, and reasonable break time and a suitable room or other location with privacy, other than a toilet stall, in close proximity to the work area for the employee to express breast milk.
    • For more information, see here.
  • If you are covered under New Jersey’s Paid Sick Leave you may be able to use your accrued paid time off for medical needs while pregnant, e.g., for a prenatal appointment. For more information on this law, see the “Caring for Your Own Medical Needs” tab.
  • If you are not covered by New Jersey law (for example, if you live in New Jersey but work in a different state) there is another federal law that may help you. The Americans with Disabilities Act makes it illegal for employers in the U.S. with 15 or more employees to discriminate against workers with disabilities. Some pregnancy-related conditions, such as preeclampsia or gestational diabetes, are considered disabilities under the law. This means:
    • Your boss cannot fire you, refuse to give you a promotion, or harass you because you have a pregnancy-related disability.
    • If you have a pregnancy-related disability, your boss cannot refuse to give you small changes at work that you need to stay healthy, like breaks to take medication, temporary relief from heavy lifting, or a stool to sit on during your shift. These changes are called “reasonable accommodations” and are available as long as you can still complete the basic duties of your job with those changes. Your boss does not have to give you an accommodation that would be very difficult or expensive, like building a whole new office.
    • Although pregnancy, by itself, is not considered a “disability,” some conditions of pregnancy may be disabilities so check with a lawyer to see whether you have a right to an accommodation at work.
  • The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination also bans disability discrimination, and covers all employers regardless of size.
  • If you are covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act you have the right to take unpaid time off during pregnancy or after experiencing a miscarriage without losing your job. If you are covered, you may also have the right to certain paid benefits under the New Jersey Paid Sick Leave law and/or New Jersey’s Temporary Disability Insurance See the “Time Off for Childbirth and Bonding” and “Caring for Your Own Medical Needs” tabs for more information about these laws and see this guide to your workplace rights around miscarriage.
  • New Jersey’s pregnancy accommodations law (see above) may also give you the right to unpaid, job-protected time off work as a “reasonable accommodation.”

Please note that each of these laws often covers certain categories of employees, but may not cover all types of employees. For example, special rules often apply to government employees. Additionally, different laws may have different standards to determine which health needs qualify for coverage. And, in many cases, more than one law may apply to your situation. If you have a question about whether you are covered under any of the laws mentioned, contact A Better Balance at 1-833-NEED-ABB

The U.S. is one of the only countries in the world with no national law guaranteeing women the right to paid leave for childbirth. However, you may have the right to paid leave and/or unpaid leave during pregnancy, childbirth, and to bond with a new child under New Jersey law. You may have additional rights under state and/or local laws. See the “Caring for Your Own Medical Needs” or “Caring for a Loved One” tabs for more information.

Paid Leave

  • Birth mothers who work in New Jersey can get some cash benefits while they are unable to work because of pregnancy and childbirth under New Jersey’s Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) program.
    • Most pregnant workers are eligible for TDI benefits for up to 4 weeks before their due date and up to 6 weeks after delivery.
    • You can receive two-thirds of your average weekly wage, up to a cap.
    • This program does not protect you from being fired while out on leave. That means that if you are not eligible for the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or New Jersey Family Leave Act (NJFLA) (both discussed in the “Unpaid, Job Protected Leave” section below), you can potentially lose your job while taking time off and receiving TDI payments.
    • TDI only covers your period of disability, not bonding, so it’s important to start collecting it right after you give birth or you could lose out. If you are planning to use any sick days, vacation days, or other time off after you give birth you may be able to choose when you wish to use that time rather than being forced to exhaust your leave prior to, or after, taking TDI. You may be able to collect TDI and paid time off at the same time—check with your employer or union about this.
  • If you work in New Jersey, you are likely eligible for paid benefits under the Family Leave Insurance (FLI) program. This program provides payments for up to 12 weeks when you need to (1) bond with your child within one year of the child’s birth or within one year of placement for foster care or adoption; (2) care for a family member with a serious health condition; (3) care for a family member diagnosed with or suspected of exposure to a communicable disease during a public health emergency; or (4) address certain non-medical needs arising from domestic or sexual violence, also known as “safe time.”
    • You will receive 85% of your average weekly wage, up to a cap.
    • The law includes protections against retaliation. You may also have job protection under other laws, such as the FMLA or NJFLA (see below) if you are covered under those laws.
    • For more information, see here.

Unpaid, Job-Protected Leave 

The law may protect your job while you are taking leave due to pregnancy, childbirth, or to bond with a new child (including adopted and foster children).

  • If you are covered, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)allows you to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off of work per year to address your own serious health needs (including pregnancy), bond with a new child, care for a seriously ill or injured family member, or address certain military family needs—without losing your job (or your health insurance, if you have it).
    • Only about half of all private sector workers in the U.S. are covered by the law. You must (1) work for the government or a company with 50 or more employees within 75 miles of your worksite; and (2) have worked with your employer for at least 1 year; and (3) have worked at least 1,250 hours in the year before taking leave.
    • If you are covered, you can use the 12 weeks to care for your own health (including pregnancy), to care for a new child after birth, adoption, or foster placement, or to care for a seriously ill family member. Remember that you only get 12 weeks a year in total—if you take time off before you give birth for your own health needs, you’ll have less time afterward to spend with your baby.
    • Before giving birth, you may use your leave an hour or day at a time—such as by taking a day off per week to go to the doctor— rather than all at once. Your employer must approve, however, if you want to use leave time in smaller chunks to bond with your baby.
    • While you are on leave, if you receive health insurance through your employer, you have the right to keep your health insurance benefits.
    • When you return to work, you have the right to return to the same or a very similar job, unless you fall into a narrow exception.
    • If you are in the top 10% of highest-paid workers in your company, different rules apply.
    • If you have accrued paid leave from your employer, you may choose to use that paid time off concurrently with your FMLA time. Your employer can also require you to use your paid leave—including paid vacation, personal, or sick days—while you are taking FMLA leave.
  • New Jersey has a law that is similar to the FMLA but covers more workers— the New Jersey Family Leave Act (NJFLA). If you have worked for your employer for 12 months, you are eligible for job-protected, unpaid leave under this law if you have worked at least 1,000 (rather than 1,250) hours with that employer in the past 12 months and your employer has 30 employees worldwide (rather than just in a 75- mile area). You can take NJFLA to:
    • care for or bond with a child within 1 year of the child’s birth or placement for adoption or foster care; or
    • care for a family member, or someone who is the equivalent of family, with a serious health condition, or who has been isolated or quarantined because of suspected exposure to a communicable disease during a state of emergency; or
    • provide required care or treatment for a child during a state of emergency if their school or place of care is closed by order of a public official due to an epidemic of a communicable disease or other public health emergency.
    • Unlike the FMLA, you cannot use NJFLA leave to recover from your own illness or pregnancy-related disability.
    • If you are covered by both NJFLA and the FMLA you must take both types of leave at the same time. However, if you need to take time off for your own pregnancy-related disability (for example, if you are placed on bed rest) and then need time to bond with a new child, you can use the FMLA and the NJFLA back-to-back and end up with as many as 24 total weeks of leave.
  • New Jersey’s pregnancy accommodations law may also give you the right to unpaid, job-protected time off work as a reasonable accommodation to physically recover from childbirth. See the “Pregnancy/Pregnancy Loss” tab for more information.
  • If your boss treats workers who take time off for childbirth differently from workers who take time off for other medical treatments (for example, they give most workers 2 weeks off for surgery but only 1 week for childbirth), this could be illegal under the national Pregnancy Discrimination Act and/or New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. Call A Better Balance if you think you are being treated unfairly.

Please note that each of these laws often covers certain categories of employees, but may not cover all types of employees. For example, special rules often apply to government employees. Additionally, different laws may have different standards to determine which health needs qualify for coverage. And, in many cases, more than one law may apply to your situation. If you have a question about whether you are covered under any of the laws mentioned, contact A Better Balance at 1-833-NEED-ABB.

When you return to work as a new parent, you may still need a few extra breaks to pump breastmilk or time off to care for your baby when they’re sick. There are a few laws that can help you get back to work safely and still care for your family.

Returning from Childbirth 

Nursing Rights 

  • You have the right to express or pump milk at work. New Jersey’s pregnancy accommodations law gives you the right to reasonable break time each day and a suitable room or other private location (not a toilet stall) near your work area to express milk, as well as other lactation accommodations such as temporary transfer to a less strenuous or hazardous position or breaks for increased food or water intake. Your employer doesn’t have to provide accommodations that it can show would cause an undue hardship for the business, meaning that they would cause the business significant difficulty or expense. See the “Pregnancy/Pregnancy Loss” tab for more information. Under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination your employer also cannot punish or discriminate against you because you are lactating.
  • Rights for breastfeeding workers are strong in New Jersey, but national laws may also protect you (for example, if you work outside New Jersey):
    • The Affordable Care Act(“Obamacare”) gives some U.S. workers the right to take unpaid breaks at work to pump milk, and requires some employers to find a clean, private place that’s not a bathroom for employees to pump milk. This law only applies to workers and employers who are covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)—the law that sets minimum wage and overtime requirements.
    • It may also be illegal under the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act for your boss to punish or discriminate against you because you are lactating.
    • Under New Jersey law, you also have the right to breastfeed your child in any public location.
  • For more information about your nursing rights, see here.

Caring for Your Family: Family Illness and Caregiver Discrimination 

As a new parent, you may face discrimination at work or have problems taking time off when you or your baby is sick. These laws can help you balance your job and caring for your family.

  • If you are covered, the New Jersey Paid Sick Leave law gives you the right to paid time off, without losing you job, if you need to recover from physical/mental illness or injury; seek medical diagnosis, treatment, or preventative care; or care for a family member who is ill or needs medical diagnosis, treatment, or preventative care.
    • If you work for an employer in New Jersey of any size, you have the right to earn and take up to 40 hours of paid sick time a year.
    • Under the law, you can take sick time to care for yourself or a child; spouse; registered domestic partner; civil union partner; parent; parent of a spouse, registered domestic partner, or civil union partner; grandchild; grandparent; sibling; spouse, registered domestic partner, or civil union partner of a parent or grandparent; any other blood relative (such as an aunt, cousin, etc.); or for any other individual whose close association with you is the equivalent of a family relationship (such as a close friend who is like family, a significant other, etc.). 
    • Under this law, you earn sick time at the rate of one hour for every 30 hours you work.
    • Sick time under this law can also be used:
      • To attend a meeting or event related to a child’s education or health;
      • When your workplace or your child’s school or child care provider is closed by order of a public official or because of a state of emergency declared by the Governor due to an epidemic or public health emergency;
      • When a health care provider or public health authority determines that your presence in the community or a family member in need of your care presents a health risk to others;
      • If you need to isolate or quarantine because a healthcare provider or public health authority determines that your presence in the community presents a public health risk because of suspected exposure to a communicable disease during a state of emergency declared by the Governor or because of the recommendation, direction, or order of a healthcare provider or public health authority; or
      • If your family member undergoes isolation or quarantine because a healthcare provider or public health authority determines that your family member’s presence in the community presents a public health risk because of suspected exposure to a communicable disease during a state of emergency declared by the Governor or because of the recommendation, direction, or order of a healthcare provider or public health authority.
      • For “safe time” purposes to address certain needs, including non-medical needs, that may arise if you or your family member is a victim of domestic violence, a sexual offense, or stalking.
    • For more information about your rights, see here.
  • If you work in New Jersey and need time off because you or your baby or other family member has a more serious health issue, you are likely eligible for paid benefits under the Family Leave Insurance (FLI) program. This program provides payments for up to 12 weeks when you need to (1) bond with your child within one year of the child’s birth or within one year of placement for foster care or adoption; (2) care for a family member with a serious health condition; (3) care for a family member diagnosed with or suspected of exposure to a communicable disease during a public health emergency; or (4) address certain non-medical needs arising from domestic or sexual violence, also known as “safe time.”
    • You will receive 85% of your average weekly wage, up to a cap.
    • A family member includes a worker’s child, parent, parent in-law, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, spouse, registered domestic partner, civil union partner, any other person related to the worker by blood, and any other person that the worker shows to have a close association with the worker which is the equivalent of a family relationship.
    • The law includes protections against retaliation.
    • FLI benefits do not come with job protection, but you may have job protection under other laws, such as the FMLA or NJFLA (see below) if you are covered under those laws.
    • For more information, see here.
  • If you are covered, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows you to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off of work per year to address your own serious health needs (including pregnancy), bond with a new child, care for a seriously ill or injured family member, or address certain military family needs—without losing your job (or your health insurance, if you have it).
  • You may have similar rights under the New Jersey Family Leave Act (NJFLA). You can also take NJFLA to:
    • care for a family member, or someone who is the equivalent of family, with a serious health condition, or who has been isolated or quarantined because of suspected exposure to a communicable disease during a state of emergency; or
    • to provide required care or treatment for a child during a state of emergency if their school or place of care is closed by order of a public official due to an epidemic of a communicable disease or other public health emergency.
    • See the “Time Off for Childbirth and Bonding” tab for more information on these laws.
  • Some workers in New Jersey are protected from caregiver discrimination.
    • If you work for the State of New Jersey, you are protected from discrimination at work based on your “familial status.” That includes discrimination against you by another state employee or by anyone doing business with the state.
    • Several localities in New Jersey, including the cities of East Orange, Elizabeth, Maywood, Newark, and Passaic and the boroughs of Rocky Hill and Wanaque, have outlawed discrimination against city employees based on family or familial status.
    • See here for a comprehensive list of localities that have outlawed caregiver discrimination. Note, however, that your city may have protections not listed in this chart. You may want to consult with an attorney if you have questions about rights in your city.
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act also bans unfair treatment of workers based on their relationship with a person with disabilities. For example, your boss can’t cut your hours because they think you can’t work as hard because you have a child with asthma. Or your boss cannot assume that you will cost more on the company’s health insurance plan because your family member is seriously ill. However, this law does not give relatives of a person with a disability the right to accommodations, such as a schedule change, to help them provide care.
  • If you lose your job because you have family caregiving responsibilities, you may still be able to get Unemployment Insurance. For more information about how to apply, consult your state’s website. You may also want to consult with an attorney if you have questions about your eligibility.

Please note that each of these laws often covers certain categories of employees, but may not cover all types of employees. For example, special rules often apply to government employees. Additionally, different laws may have different standards to determine which health needs qualify for coverage. And, in many cases, more than one law may apply to your situation. If you have a question about whether you are covered under any of the laws mentioned, contact A Better Balance at 1-833-NEED-ABB.

When you are sick—be it with a bad cold or more serious illness or injury—you may need time off from work to rest and heal. Federal, state, and local laws, may give you time off when you need it and protect you from employment discrimination.

Taking Time Off from Work

  • If you are covered, the New Jersey Paid Sick Leave law gives you the right to paid time off, without losing you job, if you need to recover from physical/mental illness or injury; seek medical diagnosis, treatment, or preventative care; or care for a family member who is ill or needs medical diagnosis, treatment, or preventative care.
    • If you work for an employer of any size in New Jersey, you have the right to earn and take up to 40 hours of paid sick time a year.
    • Under this law, you earn sick time at the rate of one hour for every 30 hours you work.
    • Sick time under this law can also be used:
      • To attend a meeting or event related to a child’s education or health;
      • When your workplace or your child’s school or child care provider is closed by order of a public official or because of a state of emergency declared by the Governor due to an epidemic or public health emergency;
      • When a health care provider or public health authority determines that your presence in the community or a family member in need of your care presents a health risk to others;
      • If you need to isolate or quarantine because a healthcare provider or public health authority determines that your presence in the community presents a public health risk because of suspected exposure to a communicable disease during a state of emergency declared by the Governor or because of the recommendation, direction, or order of a healthcare provider or public health authority; or
      • If your family member undergoes isolation or quarantine because a healthcare provider or public health authority determines that your family member’s presence in the community presents a public health risk because of suspected exposure to a communicable disease during a state of emergency declared by the Governor or because of the recommendation, direction, or order of a healthcare provider or public health authority.
      • For “safe time” purposes to address certain needs, including non-medical needs, that may arise if you or your family member is a victim of domestic violence, a sexual offense, or stalking.
    • For more information about your rights, see here.
  • The New Jersey SAFE Act also requires employers to provide an unpaid leave of absence (up to 20 days in a 12-month period) to address circumstances resulting from domestic violence or a sexually violent offense, including non-medical needs. The victim of the offense or a family member (defined as spouse, child, parent, domestic, or civil union partner) may take the leave.
  • If you are unable to work due to your non-occupational illness or disability (including during a public health emergency if you must take time off of work because you are diagnosed with or suspected of exposure to a communicable disease), you may qualify for paid benefits through New Jersey’s Temporary Disability Insurance You can learn more here.
    • You can receive TDI for up to 26 weeks in a year or for any particular “period of disability.” There is a 7-day unpaid waiting period for all TDI benefits.
    • You will receive 85% of your average weekly wage, up to a cap.
    • You may have job protection under other laws, such as the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or the New Jersey Family Leave Act (NJFLA) if you are covered under those laws.
  • If you are covered, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows you to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off of work per year to address your own serious health needs (including pregnancy), bond with a new child, care for a seriously ill or injured family member, or address certain military family needs—without losing your job (or your health insurance, if you have it).
    • Only about half of all private sector workers in the U.S. are covered by the law. You must (1) work for the government or a company with 50 or more employees within 75 miles of your worksite; and (2) have worked with your employer for at least 1 year; and (3) have worked at least 1,250 hours in the year before taking leave.
    • If you are covered, you can use the 12 weeks to care for your own serious medical needs, including those related to pregnancy and recovery from childbirth. You may also take the leave on an intermittent basis or may work on a reduced schedule.
    • While you are on leave, if you receive health insurance through your employer, you have the right to keep your health insurance benefits.
    • When you return to work, you have the right to return to the same or a very similar job, unless you fall into a narrow exception.
    • If you have accrued paid leave from your employer, you may choose to use that paid time off concurrently with your FMLA time. Your employer can also require you to use your paid leave—including paid vacation, personal, or sick days—while you are taking FMLA leave.
    • For more information about the Family and Medical Leave Act, see here.
  • If you were hurt while working or became sick as a result of your job, you may also be entitled to paid benefits and other protections through Workers’ Compensation.
  • If you lose your job due to your own medical needs, and are able to continue working, you may still be able to get Unemployment Insurance. For more information about how to apply, consult your state’s website. You may also want to consult with an attorney if you have questions about your eligibility.

Reasonable Accommodations and Anti-Discrimination Laws

  • The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination bans disability discrimination at all workplaces regardless of size. Should your disability require some changes to your position, your boss must provide you with a reasonable accommodation so that you can perform your job, unless it would be very difficult or expensive for them to do so. A reasonable accommodation can include anything from changes to your workspace to modifying your work schedule to restructuring your job.
    • Under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, your employer must provide you with reasonable accommodations if you are transgender and undergoing medical treatment to transition. Moreover, your employer cannot discriminate against you for health needs related to transitioning.
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers in the U.S. with 15 or more employees to provide reasonable accommodations to workers with disabilities and makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against workers with disabilities. Disability is defined as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, which can include caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working. This means:
    • Your boss cannot fire you, refuse to give you a promotion, or harass you because you have a disability.
    • If you have a disability, your boss cannot refuse to give you small changes at work that you need to stay healthy, like breaks to take medication, temporary relief from heavy lifting, or a stool to sit on during your shift. These changes are called “reasonable accommodations” and are available as long as you can still complete the basic duties of your job with those changes. Your boss does not have to give you an accommodation that would be very difficult or expensive, like building a whole new office.

Please note that each of these laws often cover certain categories of employees, but may not cover all types of employees. For example, special rules often apply to government employees. Additionally, different laws may have different standards to determine which health needs qualify for coverage. And, in many cases, more than one law may apply to your situation. If you have a question about whether you are covered under any of the laws mentioned, contact A Better Balance at 1-833-NEED-ABB.

When a child or family member gets sick or injured—be it with a bad cold or a more serious illness or injury—you may need to take some time off from work to care for them. Federal, state, and local laws may give you time off when you need it and protect you from employment discrimination.

Taking Time Off from Work

  • If you are covered, the New Jersey Paid Sick Leave law gives you the right to paid time off, without losing you job, if you need to recover from physical/mental illness or injury; seek medical diagnosis, treatment, or preventative care; or care for a family member who is ill or needs medical diagnosis, treatment, or preventative care.
    • If you work for an employer of any size in New Jersey, you have the right to earn and take up to 40 hours of paid sick time a year.
    • Under the law, you can take sick time to care for yourself or a child; spouse; registered domestic partner; civil union partner; parent; parent of a spouse, registered domestic partner, or civil union partner; grandchild; grandparent; sibling; spouse, registered domestic partner, or civil union partner of a parent or grandparent; any other blood relative (such as an aunt, cousin, etc.); or for any other individual whose close association with you is the equivalent of a family relationship (such as a close friend who is like family, a significant other, etc.). 
    • Under the law, you earn sick time at the rate of one hour for every 30 hours you work.
    • Sick time under this law can also be used:
      • To attend a meeting or event related to a child’s education or health;
      • When your workplace or your child’s school or child care provider is closed by order of a public official or because of a state of emergency declared by the Governor due to an epidemic or public health emergency;
      • When a health care provider or public health authority determines that your presence in the community or a family member in need of your care presents a health risk to others;
      • If you need to isolate or quarantine because a healthcare provider or public health authority determines that your presence in the community presents a public health risk because of suspected exposure to a communicable disease during a state of emergency declared by the Governor or because of the recommendation, direction, or order of a healthcare provider or public health authority; or
      • If your family member undergoes isolation or quarantine because a healthcare provider or public health authority determines that your family member’s presence in the community presents a public health risk because of suspected exposure to a communicable disease during a state of emergency declared by the Governor or because of the recommendation, direction, or order of a healthcare provider or public health authority.
      • For “safe time” purposes to address certain needs, including non-medical needs, that may arise if you or your family member is a victim of domestic violence, a sexual offense, or stalking.
    • For more information about your rights, see here.
  • The New Jersey SAFE Act also requires employers to provide an unpaid leave of absence (up to 20 days in a 12-month period) to address circumstances resulting from domestic violence or a sexually violent offense, including non-medical needs. The victim of the offense or the family member (defined as spouse, child, parent, domestic, or civil union partner) may take the leave.
  • If you work in New Jersey and need time off to care for a family member with a serious health condition, you are likely eligible for paid benefits under the Family Leave Insurance (FLI) program. This program provides payments for up to 12 weeks when you need to (1) bond with your child within one year of the child’s birth or within one year of placement for foster care or adoption; (2) care for a family member with a serious health condition; (3) care for a family member diagnosed with or suspected of exposure to a communicable disease during a public health emergency; or (4) address certain non-medical needs arising from domestic or sexual violence, also known as “safe time.”
    • You will receive 85% of your average weekly wage, up to a cap.
    • A family member includes a worker’s child, parent, parent in-law, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, spouse, registered domestic partner, civil union partner, any other person related to the worker by blood, and any other person that the worker shows to have a close association with the worker which is the equivalent of a family relationship.
    • The law includes protections against retaliation. You may have job protection under other laws, such as the Family and Medical Leave Act or the New Jersey Family Leave Act if you are covered under those laws.
    • For more information about this law, see here.
  • If you are covered, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows you to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off of work per year to address your own serious health needs (including pregnancy), bond with a new child, care for a seriously ill or injured family member, or address certain military family needs—without losing your job (or your health insurance, if you have it). See the “Time Off for Childbirth and Bonding” section above for more information on this law.
    • Only about half of all private sector workers in the U.S. are covered by the law. To qualify, you must (1) work for the government or a company with 50 or more employees within 75 miles of your worksite; and (2) have worked with your employer for at least 1 year; and (3) have worked at least 1,250 hours in the year before taking leave.
    • If you are covered, you can use the 12 weeks to care for a seriously ill family member. Under the FMLA, covered family members include a worker’s son or daughter under the age of 18 (or an adult child unable to care for him or herself due to a physical or mental disability), spouse, and parent.
    • The FMLA defines “son or daughter” to include a biological, adopted, or foster child, a stepchild, a legal ward, or a child of a person standing in loco parentis. For more information about protections the FMLA provides for LGBT families, see here.
    • You may also take the leave on an intermittent basis or may work on a reduced schedule to care for a seriously ill family member.
    • While you are on leave, if you receive health insurance through your employer, you have the right to keep your health insurance benefits.
    • When you return to work, you have the right to return to the same or a very similar job, unless you fall into a narrow exception.
    • If you have accrued paid leave from your employer, you may choose to use that paid time off concurrently with your FMLA time. Your employer can also require you to use your paid leave—including paid vacation, personal, or sick days—while you are taking FMLA leave. For more information about the Family and Medical Leave Act, see here.
  • New Jersey has a law that is very similar to the FMLA but covers more workers— the New Jersey Family Leave Act (NJFLA). If you have worked for your employer for 12 months, you are eligible for job-protected, unpaid leave under this law if you have worked at least 1,000 (rather than 1,250) hours with that employer in the past 12 months and your employer has 30 employees worldwide (rather than just in a 75-mile area). You can take NJFLA to:
      • care for or bond with a child within 1 year of the child’s birth or placement for adoption or foster care; or
      • care for a family member, or someone who is the equivalent of family, with a serious health condition, or who has been isolated or quarantined because of suspected exposure to a communicable disease during a state of emergency; or
      • provide required care or treatment for a child during a state of emergency if their school or place of care is closed by order of a public official due to an epidemic of a communicable disease or other public health emergency.
    • Unlike the FMLA, you cannot use NJFLA leave to recover from your own illness or pregnancy-related disability.
    • If you are covered by both NJFLA and the FMLA you must take both types of leave at the same time. However, if you need to take time off for your own pregnancy-related disability (for example, if you are placed on bed rest) and then need time to bond with a new child, you can use the FMLA and the NJFLA back-to-back and end up with as many as 24 total weeks of leave.
  • If you lose your job because you have family caregiving responsibilities, you may still be able to get Unemployment Insurance. For more information about how to apply, consult your state’s website. You may also want to consult with an attorney if you have questions about your eligibility.

Special Protections for Veterans’ and Military Families

  • If you are covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and a close family member is, or was, in the Armed Services, you may be entitled to additional protections under the FMLA.
  • The FMLA provides special protections for service-connected injuries or illnesses. If you are the spouse, parent, son, daughter, or next-of-kin of a veteran or a member of the Armed Services, including the National Guard and Reserves, you may be able to take military caregiver leave. You can take up to a total of 26 weeks of unpaid leave a year to take care of your military relative if he or she has a serious injury or illness stemming from his or her military service.
  • In addition to the ordinary protections under the Family and Medical Leave Act, if you have a parent, child, or spouse on or called to active duty service in a foreign country, you may be eligible for what is called “qualifying exigency” leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act to address certain needs arising out of that active duty service. This leave allows you to take up to a total of 12 weeks of unpaid leave a year.
    • This leave is available to address many different types of needs, including:
      • tending to the needs of the children of a service member, such as arranging childcare, attending meetings, or enrolling the child in a new school
      • making legal or financial arrangements for a military member
      • spending time with a servicemember on a short-term rest and recuperation leave
      • arranging care for the parent of a servicemember when the parent is unable to care for himself or herself.

Anti-Discrimination Laws

  • Some workers in New Jersey are protected from caregiver discrimination.
    • If you work for the State of New Jersey, you are protected from discrimination at work based on your “familial status.” That includes discrimination against you by another state employee or by anyone doing business with the state.
    • Several localities in New Jersey, including the cities of East Orange, Elizabeth, Maywood, Newark, and Passaic and the boroughs of Rocky Hill and Wanaque, have outlawed discrimination against city employees based on family or familial status.
    • See here for a comprehensive list of localities that have outlawed caregiver discrimination. Note, however, that your city may have protections not listed in this chart. You may want to consult with an attorney if you have questions about rights in your city.
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) also bans unfair treatment of workers based on their relationship with a person with a disability. The ADA covers workers in workplaces with 15 or more employees. For example, your boss can’t cut your hours because he thinks you can’t work as hard because you have a child with asthma. Or your boss cannot assume that you will cost more on the company’s health insurance plan because your family member is seriously ill. However, neither law gives you the right, as the relative of a person with a disability, to accommodations such as a schedule change. New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination may also ban this kind of discrimination.

Please note that each of these laws often cover certain categories of employees, but may not cover all types of employees. For example, special rules often apply to government employees. Additionally, different laws may have different standards to determine which health needs qualify for coverage. And, in many cases, more than one law may apply to your situation. If you have a question about whether you are covered under any of the laws mentioned, contact A Better Balance at 1-833-NEED-ABB

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Please note that this state-by-state guide is not intended to provide an exhaustive overview of any one law described. It is possible that other provisions may apply to your specific circumstances or category of employment.

Note also that the information contained in this guide does not constitute legal advice. It is always advisable to consult with an attorney about your individual circumstances if you have questions or think your rights as a worker have been violated.

If you have additional questions about your rights, you can contact our free, confidential legal helpline.

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