“Sandy” Amendments Give Leave and Benefits Entitlement Credit to Workers Impacted by State of Emergency
On January 17, 2014, Governor Christie signed into law P.L. 2013, c. 221, which amends the New Jersey Family Leave Act, N.J.S.A. 34:11B-1, et seq. (“FLA”), and Security and Financial Empowerment Act, N.J.S.A. 34:11C-1, et seq. (“SAFE”), to ensure that workers do not lose eligibility for leave under those statutes due to loss of employment during a natural disaster or other emergency. Under both the FLA and SAFE, employees do not qualify for leave unless they have been “employed for at least 12 months by an employer…for not less than 1,000 base hours during the immediately preceding 12-month period.” N.J.S.A. 34:11B-3; N.J.S.A. 34:11C-2. The amendments provide that any time during which an employee is laid off or furloughed due to a “state of emergency” – up to a maximum of 90 days – shall count towards the 12-month and 1,000-hour requirements. “State of emergency” is defined as any “natural or man-made disaster or emergency for which a state of emergency has been declared by the President of the United States or the Governor, or for which a state of emergency has been declared by a municipal emergency management coordinator.”
P.L. 2013, c. 221 similarly amends the eligibility provisions for temporary disability benefits and family leave insurance benefits – both of which require 20 “base weeks” of work during the preceding year – to provide that any time during which an employee is laid off or furloughed due to a “state of emergency” (up to a maximum of 13 weeks) shall count towards the “base week” requirement.