July 29, 2013
Re: Governor Signs NJ SAFE Act
Governor Christie has recently signed into law “NJ SAFE Act”, also known as “New Jersey Security and Financial Empowerment Act” to assist victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. P.L. 2013, c. 82, which will take effect on October 1, 2013, requires employers, including all public entities, to provide unpaid leave for victims of domestic violence or sexual assault.
Specifically, the law permits any employee who was a victim of an incident of domestic violence or sexually violent offense, as defined in N.J.S.A. 2C:25-19 and 30:4-27.26, to be entitled to no more than 20 days of unpaid leave in one 12 month period. Each incident of domestic violence or sexually violent offense shall constitute a separate offense for which an employee is entitled to unpaid leave, provided that the employee has not exhausted the allotted 20 days for a 12-month period. The employee is also entitled to the unpaid leave if their child, parent, spouse, domestic partner or civil union partner was a victim of an incident of domestic violence or sexually violent offense.
The unpaid leave may be taken intermittently in intervals of no less than one day as needed for any of the following activities as they relate to the incident of domestic violence or sexually violent offense:
- seeking medical attention for, or recovering from, physical or psychological injuries caused by domestic or sexual violence;
- obtaining services from a victim services organization;
- obtaining psychological or other counseling;
- participating in safety planning, temporarily or permanently relocating, or taking other actions to increase their safety from future domestic violence or sexual violence or ensure economic security;
- seeking legal assistance or remedies to ensure their health and safety, including preparing for, or participating in, any civil or criminal legal proceedings related to or derived from domestic violence or sexual violence; or
- attending, participating in, or preparing for a criminal or civil court proceeding relating to the incident of domestic violence or sexual violence.
An employee may elect or the employer may require the employee to use any of the accrued paid vacation leave, personal leave or medical or sick leave of the employee during any part of the 20 day period of unpaid leave. In such case, any paid leave provided by the employer, and accrued pursuant to established employer policies shall run concurrently with the unpaid leave. According, the employee shall receive pay pursuant to the employer’s applicable leave policies during the period of otherwise unpaid leave. If an employee request leave for a reason covered by both this law and “Family Leave Act”, both State and Federal, the leave shall count simultaneously against the employee’s entitlement under each respective law.
If the leave is foreseeable, prior to taking leave under this law, an employee shall provide the employer with written notice of the need for the leave. The notice must be provided as far in advance as is reasonable and practical. In addition, the employer may request documentation of domestic violence or sexually violent offense. Documentation shall be considered sufficient if the employee provides one or more of the following:
- A domestic violence restraining order or other documentation of equitable relief issued by the court of competent jurisdiction;
- A letter or other written documentation from the county or municipal prosecutor documenting the domestic violence or sexually violent offense;
- Documentation of conviction of a person for the domestic violence or sexually violent offense;
- Medical documentation of the domestic violence or sexually violent offense;
- Certification from the Domestic Violence Specialist or the director of a designated domestic violence agency or Rape Crisis Center; or
- Other documentation or certification of the domestic violence or sexually violent offense provided by a social worker, member of the clergy, shelter worker or other professional who has provided assistance
The bill also requires that employers post a notice of its employees’ rights and obligations under this law. The Commissioner of Labor is responsible for preparing the notice.
Furthermore, an employer cannot discharge, harass, or otherwise discriminate or retaliate or threaten to discharge, harass or otherwise discriminate or retaliate against an employee with respect to the compensation, terms, conditions or privileges of employment on the basis that the employee took or requested any leave to which the employee is entitled pursuant to this law or on the basis that the employee refused to authorize the release of information deemed confidential pursuant to this law. Fines for violating this law range include a $1,000 to $2,000 civil fine, reinstatement of the employee with full fringe benefits and seniority rights, compensation of any lost wages or benefits and payment of reasonable attorney fees. An employee must bring action within one year of the date of the alleged violation.
We suggest you review this law with your labor attorneys and human resource personnel.
Very truly yours,
William G. Dressel, Jr.