Can I Take Time Off to Care for a Sick Family Member?

Employment Attorneys Serving Northern and Central New Jersey

Image of an elderly woman being comforted in bed.Employees often call us about whether their employer is required to give them time off to care for a sick family member or newborn baby. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, many are wondering if they can take family and medical leave to care for family members who have been affected by the virus.

Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Only certain employers are required to provide time off to care for sick family members. The experienced employment attorneys at Green Savits, LLC understand the complexities of these matters and can help protect your rights.

Understanding the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

If your employer has 50 or more employees within 75 miles of your worksite and if you have worked for that employer for at least 12 months and for at least 1250 hours in the past 12 months, you are entitled to up to 12 weeks per year of unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to care for yourself, your spouse, your child, or your parent with a serious health condition. You can also use FMLA leave for the birth of a child or to bond with a newborn, fostered, or adopted child.

NJ’s Family Leave Act (“NJFLA”) also provides individuals with job protection when they need to care for a sick relative. However, NJFLA differs from FMLA in the following ways:

  • Employer has 50 employees nationwide;
  • You have worked 1000 hours in the past 12 months at your employer;
  • Allows for 12 weeks of protected leave every two years;
  • Does not apply to your own serious health condition. Because of this, new mothers who have taken time off for their own pregnancy related disability can still use NJFLA’s 12 week protected leave to care for their newborn child.  

During FMLA and NJFLA leave, your job is protected, but leave under both of these statutes is unpaid and your employer can require you to exhaust your paid time off at the start of the leave.

Unfortunately, employers with less than the required number of employees do not have to provide job-protected leave to care for a sick family member or maternity leave after a normal, healthy childbirth.

COVID-19 and the FMLA

In response to the COVIID-19 pandemic, a new federal law requires most public employers and private employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide paid sick leave and emergency childcare FMLA leave.

Contact Our Employment Lawyer Today

All of these laws and programs can be confusing. If you believe your employer is refusing to provide you time or is retaliating against you for taking time off under one of these statutes, please contact an employment lawyer at Green Savits, LLC at (973) 695-7777 to determine if you have a claim. We proudly serve Northern and Central New Jersey.

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