More Than One in Five New Jersey Workers Can Still Be Fired for Taking Paid Family Leave

Loophole in New Jersey’s paid family leave law leaves many workers with no job protection.

Published on Jun 15, 2023 in Economic Justice

With its strong paid family leave program, New Jersey is close to being the best state to raise a family. Yet, more than one in five workers can’t take time off to care for a loved one or bond with a new child without the risk of losing their jobs due to a legal loophole in New Jersey’s family leave laws. Left unaddressed, this loophole will continue to undermine the state’s paid family leave program by deterring workers from taking paid leave that they’re entitled to.

In total, 840,000 workers across the state lack job protection if they take leave, even if they qualify for paid family leave benefits, all because they work for a business with fewer than 30 employees. For the state’s family leave program to work as intended, job protection must go hand in hand with paid leave for all New Jersey workers.

The Family Leave Loophole

How could so many workers who qualify for paid family leave not have job protections for taking leave? After all, almost all New Jersey workers pay into the state’s Family Leave Insurance program, with roughly  3.7 million New Jersey workers covered.[1]

The problem is that job protection is covered by a different law from paid leave, and they each have their own eligibility criteria. Job protection for taking leave is part of the New Jersey Family Leave Act, which only applies to employers with 30 or more employees.[2] And there are additional qualifications for coverage under this law — such as number of hours worked and duration of employment — that exclude even more workers.[3]

The arbitrary 30-employee threshold means that a majority of New Jersey businesses are exempt from providing job protection entirely. Businesses with fewer than 30 employees make up nearly 90 percent of all New Jersey businesses.

The promise of paid leave is empty if not accompanied by strong job protection for the person taking leave. According to a recent study by Rutgers University, fear of job loss is a top reason workers do not take their paid family leave, even when eligible for benefits.[5] The solution is simple: Add job protection to the paid family leave program, so everyone who needs to take paid leave can take it without fear of being fired.

All workers deserve the opportunity to bond with their children or care for their disabled, sick, or aging loved ones without fear of termination, demotion, or retaliation.[6] It’s time for state lawmakers to stand with workers and close this loophole.

End Notes

[1] New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Office of Research and Information, Family Leave Insurance and Temporary Disability Insurance, Combined Annual Activity Report 2021 (2022), p. 3.

[2] N.J. Stat. Sec. 34:11B-3f.(4).

[3] N.J. Stat. Sec. 34:11B-3e. A recent estimate is that roughly 28 percent of people ineligible for family leave job protection.were ineligible because they worked fewer than 1,000 hours in the prior 12 months. Rutgers Center for Women and Work, Fact Sheet: NJFLA Coverage Gaps:Who has job protection under NJFLA (and who is left behind)? (April 2022)

[4] For more information on the base year calculation, which refers to the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters before a claim is filed, please see the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Glossary of Terms, Base Year (retrieved October 31, 2022),

[5] A majority of New Jersey employees stated that concerns about job loss (56%) or loss of seniority or advancement opportunity (54%) would be a major or minor reason that they did not use Family Leave Insurance. Sean Simone et al., Heldrich Center for Workforce Development, New Jersey’s Earned Sick Leave Law and Family Leave Insurance Program: Measuring the Awareness and Opinions of New Jersey Workers, October 2020 to October 2021 (2022), p. 6.

[6] Kathleen Romig & Kathleen Bryant, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, A National Paid Leave Program Would Help Workers, Families, April 27, 2021.