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New Jersey FMLA and Termination

Posted by Tamara

In New Jersey and elsewhere nationwide, with the exception of employees in some states that have passed more generous family leave laws, most workers are vulnerable to losing their jobs if their unpaid FMLA leave extends beyond 12 weeks long.

Anyone who wishes specific information about a given state is urged to post a question on one of our sister sites: for employees or for employers. Mention the state involved, and an answer will be provided.

FMLA is the Family and Medical Leave Act. Passed in 1993, it offers job protection for seriously ill workers who take as much as 12 weeks of unpaid leave annually. However, once the 12 weeks are up, employers are no longer obliged to return an employee to his or her job whether  or not he or she was legitimately ill.

The FMLA may also be used by pregnant employees or to bond with a newborn, a newly adopted child, or a new foster addition to the home. Workers may also use the time to care for a spouse, a parent, or a child who is seriously ill.

Although it may not seem fair to terminate a worker who has exceeded the leave limit for legitimate reasons, conditions were less generous before the passage of the FMLA. Before 1993, employers could fire a worker who took as little as two or three weeks of leave for a serious problem such as cancer or a heart attack. Employers should not be expected to hold open a job for an unspecified amount of time.

Some companies have been more generous than the FMLA and have taken workers back after their leave time has exceeded the law’s 12-week limit. Employers who do so must be consistent. If one employee is given an extension, then all must be entitled to an extension as well.

Union contracts sometimes provide more than 12 weeks of leave, and in such cases the contract trumps the FMLA. Disability laws may also supersede the Family and Medical Leave Act under some conditions. For example, if a worker becomes disabled and can perform their essential job duties with reasonable accommodations, the employer must provide them.



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