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New Jersey employment laws at both the state and federal levels protect the rights of employees to take time off from work for certain reasons. These include medical issues affecting themselves or family members. Employers must allow workers to return to their jobs, or a substantially similar job with the same pay and benefits, at the end of their authorized leave. New Jersey provides paid leave for personal or family medical issues. The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave for similar reasons. Employees must work for a covered employer and meet eligibility requirements in order to take protected FMLA leave. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently issued an updated poster that covered employers must display in the workplace. The poster outlines employees’ rights and employers’ obligations under the statute.

Family leave is available to New Jersey workers through state law as a form of insurance. Covered employers fund the system through payroll taxes. To be eligible, a worker must have worked the minimum number of hours necessary to pay into the program. Eligible workers in New Jersey may be able to take up to:
– 26 weeks of medical leave for non-work-related injuries or illnesses;
– 12 weeks of family leave to care for a family member;
– 12 weeks of family leave for a new parent to bond with a newborn infant or newly adopted or fostered child within one year of the child’s arrival; or
– 12 weeks of family leave for a new mother to bond with her infant, as well as 26 weeks of temporary disability leave before and after the birth.
The amount of pay workers may receive while on leave is equal to 85% of their average weekly pay or $1,025 per week, whichever amount is smaller. Unpaid leave with job protection is also available under state law.

The benefits offered by the FMLA are simpler than those provided by New Jersey law. Eligible employees may take up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave for:
– A new child, whether by birth, adoption, or foster placement;
– A serious illness or injury that prevents an individual from working;
– A close family member’s serious illness or injury; or
– Issues related to the military deployment of a close family member.
The eligibility rules for FMLA leave, on the other hand, are quite complicated. An employee must work for a covered employer, and they must meet minimum requirements for the number of hours worked.
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People who believe that their employers have engaged in illegal or unethical behavior should be able to come forward without fear of losing their jobs or facing other forms of retaliation. New Jersey employment law offers broad protections for whistleblowers who report alleged wrongdoing by their employers and engage in other protected activities. At the federal level, numerous statutes include whistleblower protections in specific industries or for specific types of claims. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (SOX), for example, protects employees of publicly-traded corporations who report alleged fraud or violations of securities laws. The U.S. Supreme Court recently agreed to hear a case involving a dispute over who has the burden of proving “retaliatory intent” in SOX whistleblower cases.

New Jersey’s Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA) prohibits employers from “tak[ing] any retaliatory action” against an employee for numerous protected activities. These may include the following:
– Reporting or threatening to report activities that the employee reasonably believes are illegal, unethical, or fraudulent;
– Cooperating with investigations or hearings regarding suspected illegal acts by the employer;
– Testifying in connection with such investigations;
– Objecting to activities or policies that the employee believes are unlawful, fraudulent, or against public policy; and
Reporting an alleged violation of CEPA.

While CEPA applies to all employers in New Jersey, the whistleblower protection provisions in SOX only apply to employers that are also publicly-traded corporations governed by the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) regulations. The statute’s list of protected activities is similar to CEPA’s list, except that it only applies to reports and investigations related to certain types of fraud, including wire fraud, bank fraud, and securities fraud, as well as violations of SEC regulations and other securities laws.
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The New Jersey Legislature passed a law in 2021 that legalizes the recreational use of cannabis. The New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act (CREAMMA) protects employees against adverse actions by their employers based on legal cannabis use. While the state has issued guidelines that address how employers should handle issues like impairment in the workplace, many aspects of the new law’s employment protections have yet to be tested in the courts. A New Jersey federal court recently ruled in favor of a plaintiff who has alleged wrongful termination by his employer in violation of CREAMMA, denying the defendant’s motion to dismiss.

The employment provisions of CREAMMA attempt to balance employees’ legal rights with employers’ interest in maintaining drug-free workplaces. Employers may not refuse to hire someone because they engage in legal cannabis use, nor may they fire them or take other adverse actions against them for that reason. Employees also have the right to refuse to engage in activities that are legal under CREAMMA. Drug testing by employers is allowed under certain circumstances. Employers may require that employees abstain from legal cannabis use and not be under the influence of cannabis during work hours. With some exceptions, though, they cannot prohibit lawful use outside of work.

The lawsuit described above arose from an automobile accident in late 2021 involving the plaintiff, who was driving a company vehicle at the time. According to the court, the plaintiff was not under the influence of cannabis or any other substance, nor did anyone suspect that he was. The employer required the plaintiff to submit to a drug test as a standard part of its safety policy. The plaintiff claims that, prior to the drug test, he alerted the employer about cannabis use outside of work about two weeks earlier. The test was positive for cannabis, resulting in the plaintiff”s immediate suspension.
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Workers have the right to organize themselves in order to bargain collectively with their employers and advocate for better working conditions. Federal and New Jersey employment laws protect these rights and prohibit employers from interfering with or retaliating against employees who are engaged in lawful activities. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) adjudicates disputes over alleged violations of federal labor laws. In February 2023, it issued a ruling that invalidates a non-disparagement clause that an employer included in severance agreements for a group of employees it had just laid off. The NLRB found that the employer could not require workers to waive such a large number of legal rights. The following month, the NLRB’s General Counsel (GC) issued a memorandum providing guidance to NLRB directors and officers on how to implement this decision.

Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) identifies a broad range of rights enjoyed by workers. This includes “the right to self-organization” and to join or form a labor union for the purpose of collective bargaining. The section also states that workers have the right to engage in “other concerted activities for the purpose of…mutual aid or protection.” The NLRB and the courts have interpreted this as providing rather broad protection of workers’ right to communicate among themselves and with others about various features of employment, such as working conditions and wages.

The case recently before the NLRB involved a hospital and a union representing various service employees. The hospital furloughed numerous employees at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. It made the temporary furlough permanent for eleven union members later that year. Each of these employees received a “Severance Agreement, Waiver and Release” that offered a severance package in exchange for their signature. According to the NLRB’s ruling, the hospital did not inform the union of the furloughs or the severance agreements.
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Disability discrimination is unlawful under both federal and state laws. Employers may not refuse to hire a job applicant because of a disability, nor may they fire, demote, refuse to promote, or deny various other employment features to an employee. Federal and state laws apply these protections both to individuals with qualifying disabilities and individuals who are perceived as having a disability. A plaintiff asserting a claim for damages under New Jersey employment law has the burden of proving that their employer based their discriminatory act or acts on a qualifying disability. In a case involving perceived disability, the plaintiff must also prove that the employer had this perception. The New Jersey Appellate Division recently allowed a disability discrimination case to proceed. It ruled that the plaintiff was entitled to gather evidence regarding their employer’s perceptions and intent.

The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) provides a broad definition of “disability” that includes a wide range of physical and psychological conditions. New Jersey courts have long held that the NJLAD’s provisions on disability discrimination apply to perceived disabilities just as much as actual ones. In other words, an employer violates the NJLAD when it believes an employee has a disability and discriminates against them because of that perceived disability.

The plaintiff in the lawsuit described above alleged that the defendants unlawfully discriminated against her because of a perception that she was an alcoholic. The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in 1988 that alcoholism may qualify as a disability under the NJLAD.
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Our legal system encourages people who have information about wrongdoing by their employers to come forward and report what they know. This may involve violations of employment statutes, fraud or other criminal acts, or other forms of misconduct. Some statutes provide rewards for employees, known as “whistleblowers,” who provide information that leads to successful civil or criminal enforcement actions. Both federal and New Jersey employment laws protect whistleblowers from retaliation by their employers. The Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA), which the U.S. Congress enacted in 2020, includes whistleblower protections. At the end of 2022, Congress enacted the Anti-Money Laundering Whistleblower Improvement Act (AMLWIA). This law protects a wider range of individuals who report alleged unlawful activity. It also increases financial incentives for people to come forward.

In New Jersey, the Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA) bars retaliation by employers against employees who engage in various whistleblowing activities. This might include:
– Reporting, or threatening to report, an activity that the employee reasonably believes is unlawful to a supervisor or regulatory agency;
– Participating in a public investigation or hearing that relates to alleged unlawful activity by the employer; or
– Objecting to or refusing to participate in an activity that the employee believes is illegal, fraudulent, or against public policy.

An employee in New Jersey who believes that their employer has retaliated against them in violation of CEPA has one year to file a lawsuit. Damages may include lost wages and benefits, reinstatement with full benefits and seniority, injunctive relief, and attorney’s fees.
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Federal and New Jersey employment laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability, which includes hearing loss. Employers must make reasonable accommodations for employees with qualifying hearing impairments as long as it does not create an undue hardship. The federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) often differ in the scope of their protections, with state law tending to be more expansive. The definition of “disability” under federal law, in turn, tends to be more restrictive. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which enforces the ADA and other federal employment statutes, recently issued guidance on how employers may address employees or job applicants with hearing disabilities.

The NJLAD defines “disability” as a range of conditions that either “prevent[] the typical exercise of any bodily or mental functions” or can be demonstrated through “accepted clinical or laboratory diagnostic techniques.” The ADA’s definition depends more on how a condition affects an individual. In order to qualify as a disability under the ADA, a condition must “substantially limit[] one or more major life activities.”

When an employee with a qualifying disability requests an accommodation, the employer must consider whether providing that accommodation would pose an undue hardship. They must work with the employee to find the best way to help them perform their job duties. Factors that employers may consider during this process include the cost of a requested accommodation and the effect it will have on the workplace, other employees, and the employer’s business.
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New Jersey’s employment laws protect workers in this state from unlawful discrimination and retaliation, guarantee a minimum wage for many employees, and ensure that they will receive overtime pay for overtime work. In order for an individual to enjoy many of these legal protections, however, an employer-employee relationship must exist. Certain employment arrangements do not meet many legal definitions of “employment,” leaving some workers with no recourse if their employers underpay them or subject them to other forms of unfair treatment. A new law in New Jersey, the Temporary Worker Bill of Rights (TWBOR), will expand legal protections for workers employed by temporary staffing agencies. The law will take effect in two stages later this year.

The bill that became the TWBOR, A1474, made its way through the New Jersey Legislature for over a year before it finally became law in February 2023. The Assembly addressed the need for the law in the section on findings and declarations. More than 127,000 workers in New Jersey are employed by temporary staffing agencies. This includes around one hundred licensed agencies and an unknown number of unlicensed ones.

Temporary workers receive pay from their agencies for work performed for clients. According to AB1474, they earn an average of 41% less than employees who perform similar work as part of a formal employment relationship. Black and Latino workers are overrepresented among temporary workers when compared to overall employment in New Jersey. Temporary workers are generally more vulnerable to a wide range of exploitative or abusive practices, hence the need for the TWBOR.
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Mass layoffs can create problems for employees, their families, and, in some cases, entire communities that depend on a single employer. Federal and New Jersey employment laws attempt to limit the impact of large-scale worker layoffs by requiring employers to give advance notice to workers who will be included in an upcoming layoff. The federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act of 1988 requires covered employers to give sixty days’ notice for sufficiently large layoffs. New Jersey enacted its own law, the Millville Dallas Airmotive Plant Job Loss Notification Act or “New Jersey mini-WARN Act,” in 2007. The legislature enacted a bill expanding the mini-WARN Act in 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic interfered with its implementation. A new bill, signed into law by the governor in January, changes the bill’s effective date to April 10, 2023.

The New Jersey law gets its official name from a 2004 plant closing in Millville that reportedly resulted in the loss of several hundred jobs. It became law in December 2007 and took effect immediately. Prior to the legislature’s 2020 amendments, the statute applied to employers with at least one hundred full-time employees. It defined a “part-time employee” as anyone who worked less than twenty hours per week on average or had worked for the employer for less than six months. The statute applies to layoffs at “establishments,” defined as locations that an employer has operated for more than three years.

The mini-WARN Act applied to mass layoffs, also known as reductions in force (RIFs) that affected either:
– Five hundred or more employees at an establishment; or
– Fifty or more employees at an establishment, provided that they comprise at least one-third of the total number of people employed at that location.
Employers had to give notice at least sixty days in advance of a RIF. The statute required them to pay severance to any employee to whom they did not provide the required notice. The amount was equal to one week of pay for each full year of employment.
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New Jersey employment laws provide eligible workers with protected leave to deal with medical issues or care for family members. The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave for certain reasons. In order to qualify for leave under this statute, an employee must work for a covered employer and meet minimum work-hour requirements. An increasing number of workers in New Jersey and around the country are working remotely, which has raised questions about how the FMLA applies. The Wage and Hour Division (WHD) of the U.S. Department of Labor issued guidance in February 2023 addressing this and several other questions. Its position is that the FMLA’s protections apply to remote workers in much the same way that they would be available to on-site employees. It offers some clarifications on how eligibility criteria relating to an employee’s “worksite” apply to remote workers.

Eligibility for FMLA leave is complicated. The statute establishes criteria for the employer, the employee, and the purpose of the requested leave. It applies to employers with at least fifty employees. An employee must meet the following three criteria:
1. They have worked for the employer for at least twelve months. For this criterion, the twelve months do not need to be consecutive.
2. During the twelve-month period immediately before the employee requests leave, they have worked a minimum of 1,250 hours.
3. Their employer employs at least fifty people within seventy-five miles of their worksite.

Reasons for leave under the FMLA may include the following:
– A serious health condition that prevents an employee from performing their job;
– The birth, adoption, or foster placement of a child;
– A serious health condition of a spouse, child, or parent; or
– A “qualifying exigency” related to the active-duty military service of a spouse, child, or parent.
Employers violate the FMLA when they interfere with an eligible employee’s effort to use accrued leave time or discriminate against an employee because they requested or used leave. They must allow employees to return to the same position or a substantially similar position when their leave ends, with the same pay and benefits.
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