Rights of Employees
Discrimination Against Victims of Domestic Violence
If you or your close family member have been victims of sexual or domestic violence in New Jersey, you may be protected by the New Jersey Security and Financial Empowerment Act (“NJ SAFE Act”).Time Off Due to Domestic and Sexual Violence
The New Jersey Security and Financial Empowerment Act (“NJ SAFE Act”) entitles covered employees to take up to 20 days per year off from work because the employee or his or her child, parent, spouse, domestic partner, or civil union partner was the victim of domestic or sexual violence. This time off can be taken for:
- Medical care for physical or psychological injuries;
- Services from a victim services organization;
- Psychological or other counseling;
- Safety planning, relocating, or other actions to increase safety or ensure economic security;
- Legal assistance and remedies; or
- Attending, participating in, or preparing for a criminal or civil court proceeding.
The NJ SAFE Act does not require employers to pay employees during their covered time off. However, employees can use any accrued paid time off, such as vacation, personal, or sick leave, to be paid for part or all of their protected time off for someone who has been. Otherwise, an employer is not required to pay the employee while they are off from work.
When a leave under the NJ SAFE Act is foreseeable, the employee is required to give the employer as much advance written notice as feasible that he or she needs the time off.
When appropriate, a leave taken pursuant to the NJ SAFE Act can run concurrently with a family or medical leave under the Family & Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) or the New Jersey Family Leave Act (“NJFLA”).Prohibition Against Discrimination, Harassment and Retaliation
The NJ SAFE Act makes it unlawful illegal for an employer to fire, harass or otherwise discriminate or retaliate because an employee requested or took a leave pursuant to it. It also protects employees who refuse to release information the statute deems to be confidential.
Prohibited forms of discrimination and retaliation include adverse actions taken regarding compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, as well as any threats to taken one of those actions.Representing Victims of Sexual or Domestic Violence in New Jersey
The employment law attorneys at Rabner Baumgart Ben-Asher & Nirenberg, P.C., represent individuals whose rights have been violated. We handle not only claims under the NJ Safe Act, but also under other statutes including the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”) and the Conscientious Employee Protection Act (“CEPA”).
For more information, or to schedule a consultation, please either contact us online, or call us at (973) 744-4000.Who is Covered by the NJ SAFE Act?
The NJ SAFE Act does not apply to everyone who works in New Jersey. Rather, it applies only to employees who have worked for their current employer for at least 12 months, and worked at least 1,000 hours for it during the past 12 months. In addition, it applies only to employers that have 25 or more employees, as well as New Jersey state and local government.Requests for Documentation
The NJ SAFE Act permits an employer to request documentation from an employee to confirm the time off requested was due to domestic violence or a sexually violent offense. It lists the types of documents that would be sufficient to prove this, including a domestic violence restraining order; a letter from a prosecutor; documentation of a conviction; medical records; a certification from a certified Domestic Violence Specialist or the director of a designated domestic violence agency or Rape Crisis Center; and other documentation of the domestic violence or sexually violent offense from a social worker, member of the clergy, shelter worker, or other professional.
Employers must treat any information provided to them pursuant to the NJ SAFE Act in the “strictest confidentiality.” The only exceptions to this rule are when the employee voluntarily authorizes the disclosure, or the disclosure is required by federal or state law.Remedies for Violations of the NJ SAFE Act
When an employer violates the NJ SAFE Act, an employee can bring a civil lawsuit to recover damages for any lost salary and benefits, emotional distress damages, and reinstatement to his or her former job (or an equivalent position) with full seniority and benefits, as well as attorney’s fees. In addition, an employee can seek an injunction to prohibit the employer from violating the Act again.
The statute of limitations to bring a claim under the NJ SAFE Act is one year from the employer’s violation of the law.