Beginning on October 1, 2013, the New Jersey Security and Financial Employment Act (“NJ SAFE Act”) will require public and private employers in New Jersey with 25 or more employees to provide up to 20 days of unpaid leave, within a 12 month period, to an employee who is the victim of domestic violence or sexual assault.  The unpaid leave can also be taken by an employee to care for a child, spouse, parent, domestic partner, or civil union partner who is a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault.  The unpaid leave can be taken intermittently in intervals no less than 1 day in a 12 month period following the incident.  To be eligible, the employee of a covered employer must be employed for at least 12 months and cannot have worked less than 1,000 hours in the preceding 12 month period. 

The unpaid leave pursuant to the NJ SAFE Act will run concurrently with leave taken under the New Jersey Family Leave Act (“NJFLA”) and Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), if applicable.  Additionally, an employer may require the employee to use accrued vacation, medical or other paid time off during the 20 day period.  The employer may request documentation of the incident that forms the basis for the leave, such as a court-issued restraining order, a letter from the prosecutor, medical documentation or certification provided by a social worker or other professional who assisted the victim. 

The NJ SAFE Act prohibits discrimination, retaliation, or threats of discrimination or retaliation by an employer against an employee who requests or takes leave because he or she is a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault.  The NJ SAFE Act allows an employee to sue in state court for violations and penalties can range from up to $2,000.00 for the first offense and up to $5,000.00 for each subsequent offense.

The employer will be required to display “conspicuous notice” of its employees’ rights and obligations under the NJ SAFE Act and must keep any information obtained from the employee confidential unless the employee authorizes its release in writing.  The following link directs you to the required poster developed by the Commission of Labor and Workforce Development.

Obermayer attorneys are available to answer your questions and assist you in reviewing your leave policies and other labor and employment issues.