Reviewing and revising your employee handbook policies should top your to-do list each year. To help, we compiled a list of four policies New Jersey employers need to address in their handbook in 2020.
Family Leave Act (FLA)
In February of 2019, Governor Phil Murphy signed a bill to amend the state’s leave entitlements. The bill provides longer leave and greater benefits for New Jersey workers. Multiple existing programs are affected including the Family Leave Act (FLA).
FLA provides unpaid, job-protected leave to bond with a newborn or adopted child, or to care for a sick family member. FLA does not include leave for the employee’s own medical condition.
“Job-protected leave” requires the employer to reinstate the employee to the same position or to a position equivalent in status, pay and benefits, with few exceptions. Also, group health insurance benefits must be maintained during leave.
All New Jersey employers with 30 or more employees (nationwide) are required to provide workers with 12 weeks of job-protected leave. The leave can be 12 consecutive weeks, or intermittent during a 24-month period.
The new law covers child bonding to include foster care and surrogacy, and expands leave to care for more family members including grandchildren, siblings, grandparents or any individual with a close association to the employee.
FLA is separate from the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which applies to employers with 50 or more employees. Workers may be eligible for additional leave under FMLA.
Family Leave Insurance (FLI) and Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI)
The state’s leave entitlements amendments also affect Family Leave Insurance (FLI) and Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI). Both are monetary benefits that currently provide up to 6 weeks of partial wage replacement. FLI is to bond with a child, or care for a family member. TDI is short-term disability for non-work-related illness or injury. Expectant mothers are eligible for both.
Beginning July 1, 2020, the programs will double paid leave to 12 consecutive weeks in a 12-month period. Intermittent paid leave will increase from 42 to 56 days in a 12-month period.
Weekly payments will increase from $650 (2019’s max benefit), to $881 on July 1, 2020. Employers do not fund the wage replacement benefit; employees pay into the programs through an automatic payroll deduction.
Commuter Benefits Law
In March of 2019, New Jersey became the first state to require employers to offer a commuter benefit program to their employees.
Employers with 20 or more employees must offer all employees a tax-free fringe benefit that allows workers to pay for certain commuting costs using pre-tax money.
Benefits cover transit (bus, train, subway passes), parking, and ridesharing costs. Governmental entities and employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement are excluded.
The plan must be active for employees to enroll in by March 1, 2020.
Employers should contact their benefits broker or a third-party benefits program provider to set up a transit program to comply with New Jersey’s mandate. The law does not require employers to pay for this benefit, but the administrative obligations and tax liability is on the employer.
Commuter benefits should be structured as an employee-funded tax-free payroll deduction. Or employers may choose to fund the benefit. The costs can also be shared by employer and employee.
Employers are required to notify each employee in writing about the details of their commuter program. Employees must elect or waive the benefit in writing. Detailed documentation is crucial for employers to demonstrate compliance.
The Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Cannabis Act (CUMCA).
Governor Murphy signed legislation to add new job protections and drug testing procedures for users of medical cannabis and renamed the program the Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Cannabis Act (CUMCA) in July of 2019.
The CUMCA does not prohibit drug testing, but it creates new procedures that must be followed when an employee or applicant has tested positive for marijuana. These procedures were outlined in a recent Q&A posted to our blog.
The CUMCA prohibits an employer from taking any adverse employment action against a medical marijuana user if that adverse employment action is “based solely on the employee’s status” as a medical marijuana patient.
The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD), may require employers to accommodate medical marijuana use to treat a disability, even though CUMCA does not expressly require employers to accommodate medical marijuana use. Employers must comply with accommodation obligations already imposed elsewhere (such as under LAD or the Americans with Disabilities Act) for disabled employees and applicants.
The Employee Handbook — More Important Than Ever!
Your organization’s employee handbook is necessary to communicate workplace policies and to help avoid potential litigation. Don’t tackle creating or updating one on your own. BPHR’s handbook creation service allows for real-time updates of federal, state and local laws, so you can rest assured knowing yours is always up to date.
Our experts can help you draft and maintain a handbook that is as engaging as it is compliant. To learn more about Balance Point’s HR consulting service (BPHR) and how we can help with your employee handbook, schedule a phone consultation today.