In addition to the leave provided by your employer’s discretionary policies on vacation time, sick leave, personal days, or paid time off (PTO), you may have a legal right to take time off work for specific reasons under federal and New Jersey laws. For example, if you are caring for an ailing family member or recovering from childbirth, you may have a right to leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). New Jersey law provides additional leave rights, including the right to parental leave and domestic violence leave. Employees can also collect temporary disability benefits when they are unable to work due to their own disabling conditions (including pregnancy), as well as paid family leave benefits when caring for a family member.
This article provides an overview of your right to time off from work in New Jersey. For more information, see our page on employee leave rights.
The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) gives eligible employees the right to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year to care for a seriously ill family member (spouse, parent, or child), recuperate from their own serious health conditions, bond with a new child, or handle certain practical matters arising from a family member’s military service. The FMLA also requires employers to give employees up to 26 weeks off to care for a family member who suffered or exacerbated a serious illness or injury while serving in the military. (For purposes of this military family leave provision only, employees may take leave to care for a wider set of family members, including siblings, grandparents, and cousins, if they are next of kin to an injured service member.)
The FMLA applies to employers in all states with at least 50 employees. Employees are eligible only if they have worked for the employer for at least 12 months and have worked 1,250 hours in the 12 months before taking leave. (Learn much more about your rights under the FMLA at our Taking Family and Medical Leave page.)
Some states have created laws that provide employees with leave for family and medical reasons. Sometimes these laws overlap with the FMLA and don’t create additional rights. Often, however, state law applies to a wider set of employers, has more relaxed eligibility requirements for employees, or covers a broader set of family members.
New Jersey has its own family and medical leave law, which allows employees to take up to 12 weeks of leave in any 24-month period to care for a family member with a serious health condition or to care for a newly born or adopted child. Unlike the FMLA, New Jersey’s law does not give employees the right to take time off for their own serious health conditions.
Employers are covered if they have at least 50 employees. Employees are eligible for leave under New Jersey’s family and medical leave law if they have worked for their employers for at least one year, and have worked at least 1,000 hours in the last 12 months. Employees may take leave to care for a parent, spouse, child, parent-in-law, or partner in a civil union.
New Jersey has a state temporary disability insurance program. Eligible employees who are temporarily unable to work due to disability (including pregnancy) can receive up to two-thirds of their usual wages while they are out of work. (For more information, select “Temporary Disability” from the home page of New Jersey’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development.)
This program does not give employees the right to protected time off work. It only provides for partial wage replacement while employees are out on leave.
New Jersey’s temporary disability insurance program also funds paid family leave. Eligible employees may collect the same benefits available for a temporary disability for up to six weeks to care for a seriously ill family member or to bond with a new child. (For more information, select “Family Leave Insurance” from the home page of New Jersey’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development.)
Like the temporary disability insurance program, paid family leave provides only for payment when employees take time off; it does not give employees an independent right to job-protected leave.
Another federal law, the Unformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) gives eligible employees the right to be reinstated to their jobs after taking up to five years off for service in the U.S. military. (Find out all about USERRA in Nolo's article, Taking Military Leave.) Employers may not discriminate against employees based on their military service. And, employees may be fired only for good cause for a period of up to one year after they return from service, even if they would otherwise work at will. (See Employment At Will: What Does It Mean? to learn more.)
The laws of many states extend similar rights to employees who serve in the state’s military, including the right to take time off from work and to be reinstated afterwards. In New Jersey, employees may take unpaid leave for unpaid service in the federal or state military, with reinstatement upon their return. Employees may not be fired without cause for one year after they are reinstated following military service.
Employees may also take up to three months of leave in a four-year period for annual training or assemblies relating to their military service, or to attend service schools conducted by the U.S. Armed Forces.
New Jersey law also gives employees the right to take time off work, without fear of retaliation, for the civic responsibility of serving on a jury. Employers may not threaten or coerce employees to discourage them from serving on a jury. Employers must allow employees to take time off to serve on a jury. This time off is unpaid. However, special rules apply to exempt employees. Under federal law, employers typically cannot deduct an exempt, salaried employee’s pay for time spent serving on a jury, unless the employee did no work for the entire week. For more information, see our article on pay docking.
Most states give employees the right to take time off to vote. However, New Jersey is not one of them.
Employers with at least 25 employees must allow employees who are victims of domestic or sexual violence to take time off to:
Employees may take up to 20 days off, unpaid, in a 12-month period for these purposes, if they or their family members are victims of domestic violence or sexual violence. Employees are eligible for this type of leave if they have worked for the employer for at least 12 months, and have worked at least 1,000 hours in the past 12 months.