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What should New Jersey residents know before taking family leave?

Family leave has been a big topic of conversation in recent years. More women and men are seeking the right not just to take time off when a child is born or adopted, but for other family needs, such as caring for a sick parent or spouse.

In addition to the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, states have their own family leave laws that apply to most employers. The New Jersey Family Leave Act mandates any business with at least 50 employees to allow workers to have up to 12 weeks of family leave over a two-year period. The FMLA allows the same amount of leave, but over a one-year period.

This leave can be used to care for a new child as well as for a seriously ill child, spouse or parent. While the NJFLA doesn't cover an employee's own disability, the FMLA does. However, if an employee is taking leave time that's covered under both the NJFLA and the FMLA, it runs concurrently. In other words, you don't get to use one followed by the other.

Employees must meet certain requirements to be entitled to family leave. For example, they must have worked for their employer for at least one year. They must also have worked at least 1,000 base hours during the past year.

If you are seeking family leave time, it's essential that you and your employer have a clear mutual understanding of exactly how much time you're taking and how it's being categorized. It's also important to have an agreement on whether you will be coming back to your current job or if you may have to take a different one.

Get all of these things in writing so that there are no misunderstandings or problems later on. If things change and you need more time off, it's essential that you communicate that equally clearly to your employer and that any amended arrangements are in writing. This can help protect you from repercussions later.

Of course, if you believe that you're wrongly being denied family leave or that you are suffering unlawful repercussions because of your leave, it may be wise to seek the guidance of a New Jersey employment law attorney to help ensure that your rights are protected.

Source: Department of Law and Public Safety, "About The NJ Family Leave Act (FLA)," accessed Oct. 26, 2015

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