A new proposal passing through the state Senate would expand the state's family leave program by doubling how long someone could claim benefits, boost the amount paid and expand the definition of eligible family members.
The measure, Senate Bill 2528, passed with a 3-1 vote with one abstention during the Thursday morning vote in the Senate Labor Committee. It was sponsored by Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-3rd District, along with Sens. Teresa Ruiz, D-29th District, and Patrick Diegnan, D-18th District.
Under the measure, the period of Family Leave Insurance (FLI) and Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) would expand from six to 12 weeks to pay for the care of a newborn or sick family member. It also covers victims of sexual and domestic violence and their families.
Under the bill, a claimant’s payment would increase from two-thirds of their average weekly wage, to 90 percent of that wage, provided they earn less than the state’s average weekly wage (SAWW) of $1,203.43.
Any person who earns more than that would be capped at 100 percent of the SAWW amount. The current compensation rate is 53 percent of the SAWW, or $637.
FLI and TDI family eligibility would expand to siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, parents-in-law and “others related by blood or relationship equivalent to a family relationship,” according to the legislation.
Employers with more than 30 workers would be prohibited from retaliatory dismissing employee-claimants. That’s down from the current 50-employee threshold.
It also drew out the opposition from groups like the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, which argued the rule would put undue costs on employers and the “broad anti-retaliatory language” would open them up to frivolous litigation.
The South Jersey Chamber of Commerce argued that the bill was well-intended, but would drive up business costs and taxes, while lowering productivity.
S2528 was among a trio of bills that moved forward during the committee meeting, all of which concerned paid family leave.
One bill would expand the data collected on TDI recipients to include gross wages of workers, labor union membership, race, ethnicity, national origin, citizenship status, educational attainment level, whether they work for a private or governmental employer and intermittent usage of family leave benefits and the location of employers.
Another would increase the amount of compensation available to a claimant who lost the use of a hand or foot.