Maternity & Paternity Leave

Mothers and fathers often find that they need time away from work after the arrival of a newborn. For decades, parents in the United States had no legal rights to take leave, but things have changed over the past 25 years.

In New Jersey, both mothers and fathers can take leave and might have other rights. These rights are found in different laws flung across the legal landscape, so many parents are unaware of what they are entitled to. This blog post will explain the highlights of all laws that are relevant to new parents.

Who Qualifies for Unpaid Parental Leave

An employee in New Jersey qualifies for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave every two years. Employees can use this leave to spend time with a newborn (or newly adopted) baby. While an employee is out on leave, their job is protected. This means an employer cannot hire someone permanently to replace you or demote you once you return to work.

To qualify for leave, an employee must meet the following requirements:

  • You must have worked for the company for at least 12 months. This means you can’t hop to a new job and then immediately request leave.
  • You must have worked at least 1,000 hours in your job. This will exclude many part-time workers.
  • Your employer must have at least 50 employees on staff globally. This means the law does not apply to many small businesses.
  • You cannot be one of the highest-paid people at the company. If you are, then your employer can legally deny leave.

If you think that you qualify, you should speak to your employer about requesting leave because of the arrival of a newborn. Talk to them at least 30 days before you want to request leave.

Paid Benefits

Mothers and fathers are entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave under New Jersey law. The good news is that parents can ask to use any of their accrued paid leave during this period, such as vacation time or sick days.

In New Jersey, parents are also entitled to up to six weeks of paid benefits (called family leave insurance), equal to about two-thirds of an employee’s salary up to a maximum amount.

Not all employees can request paid benefits. For example, your employer must be subject to the state’s Temporary Disability Benefits Law, which covers any employer that meets one of the following:

  • Your employer has one or more employees earning at least $165.000 a week for 20 consecutive weeks, or
  • Your employer has at least one employee earning at least $8,300.00 in the previous 52 weeks.

Again, very small businesses might be excluded from this law. You should also realize that the disability law does not provide worker protection, meaning your employer is not required to hire you back or return you to your old job.

Health Insurance and Parental Leave

Many new parents are justifiably worried about what happens to their insurance while out on leave Fortunately, an employer must keep their health benefits current so long as the employee continues to qualify for leave under the law.

What to Do if You are Denied Benefits

Not all employers are happy to provide their employees with leave. If your employer has denied your request, or if they have not kept your job open, you might have a viable legal claim. Meet with an experienced New Jersey harassment lawyer to discuss your case.

At the Sattiraju & Tharney, LLP, we have represented mothers and fathers who have been denied leave under New Jersey law. There are also federal laws that provide additional rights and protections which we can discuss. We can help you document your request and the reasons your employer gave for a denial.

Please contact us and request a confidential consultation today.