On April 14, 2020, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphey signed into law several bills to address the challenges facing employers and employees during the COVID-19 epidemic, including amendments to New Jersey’s Millville Dallas Airmotive Plant Loss Job Notification Act (the “NJ WARN Act”) and New Jersey’s Family Leave Act.
Amendments to the New Jersey WARN Act
New Jersey’s WARN Act was amended earlier this year to expand employers’ notice and severance pay obligations in the event of a mass layoff or plant closing. In addition to expanding the definition of “mass layoff,” the amendment requires, among other things, that covered employers provide not less than 90 days’ notice as well as severance equal to one-week’s pay for each full year of employment to each employee whose employment is terminated in a covered mass layoff or plant closing. (For a detailed description of the New Jersey WARN Act amendments, see our prior Legal Alert here. These amendments were scheduled to take effect on July 19, 2020.
In response to the COVID-19 epidemic, the NJ WARN Act was amended again. No longer is July 19, 2020 the effective date of above amendments. They will now take effect 90 days after the termination of Executive Order 103 of 2020, which is Governor Murphy’s March 9, 2020 Executive Order declaring a state of emergency in New Jersey due to COVID-19.
In addition, the Act revises and limits the definition of “mass layoff” to exclude any mass layoff made necessary “because of a fire, flood, natural disaster, national emergency, act of war, civil disorder or industrial sabotage, decertification from participation in the Medicare and Medicaid programs . . . or license revocation . . . .” The definition previously did not contain any such exclusions.
While the Act does not specify whether the COVID-19 epidemic constitutes a “national emergency” under the definition of “mass layoff,” it appears that it would given the delayed effective date of the amendments until 90 days following the termination of the Executive Order declaring a state of emergency due to COVID-19.
This newest amendment, which delays the effective date of the prior amendments and revises the definition of “mass layoff,” takes effect immediately and is retroactive to March 9, 2020.
Amendments to the New Jersey Family Leave Act
New Jersey’s Family Leave Act was amended as well on April 14, 2020. The amendment expands the Family Leave Act to include, in the event of an epidemic of a communicable disease, an employee’s leave from employment to: (i) care for a child due to the closure of the school or place of care of the child by order of a public official due to the epidemic; (ii) care for a family member who is sick as a result of the epidemic or is known or suspected to have been exposed to the communicable disease; and (iii) care for a family member who is recommended by a health care provider or public health authority to undergo self-quarantine as a result of suspected exposure to the communicable disease.
The Act allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 24-month period without losing their jobs. With some exceptions, an employee is eligible for such leave if they have worked for at least a year and worked at least 1,000 hours during the last 12 months. The Act applies to employers who employ 30 or more employees.
The Act takes effect immediately and is retroactive to March 25, 2020.
If you have any questions about this client alert, please contact your SGR Labor and Employment counsel.