The big news this week is Netflix’s announcement that it will offer its employees a very generous one year paid leave for the birth or adoption of a child. Compared to Netflix, Twitter offers 20 weeks of paid maternity leave, Google 18 weeks, and Microsoft 12 weeks. There is something in the Silicon Valley waters.
Under federal law, there is no right to paid leave. In fact, the United States is one of a handful of nations that does not mandate paid maternity (or paternity) leave.
Finland mandates 167 weeks of paid maternity leave. Sweden mandates 480 days’ paid maternity leave — including 390 days at around 80% of their salary. Germany provides paid maternity leave for up to 14 months at 65% of their salary. In France, employees are guaranteed 16 weeks’ pay at 100% of their salary during maternity leave.
In 2008, New Jersey enacted the New Jersey Paid Family Leave Act (“NJPFLA” and also referred to as “New Jersey Family Leave Insurance Benefits” and the “New Jersey Family Temporary Leave Law”), which provides eligible employees six weeks of paid leave. But there are four caveats.
First, pay is limited to two-thirds of a person’s average weekly wages, up to a maximum of $604.00 per week.
Second, employees are eligible for paid leave if the employer is subject to the Temporary Disability Benefits Law, which applies to any business that employs one or more individuals who (1) earned at least $165.00 per week for 20 consecutive weeks, or (2) earned at least $8,300.00 in the 52 weeks prior to the leave.
Third, employees may take paid leave for any reason consistent with the New Jersey Family Leave Act. However, NJPFLA does not cover leave taken by an employee for his or her own serious health condition (though it may be taken for the birth or adoption of a child).
Fourth, and perhaps the most problematic, is that an employee electing to take paid leave has no right to reinstatement if he or she works in a business with fewer than 50 employees.
In contrast, employers are prohibited from terminating employees for exercising their rights to take unpaid leave pursuant to the federal Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) and the New Jersey Family Leave Act (“NJFLA”).
Until the day comes when the United States mandates paid leave for maternity, paternity, or other health related reasons, it is important that New Jersey employers understand their obligations under the FMLA, NJFLA, and NJPFLA, and it is critical that NJ employees know their rights to paid and unpaid leave under these laws.