NJ SAFE Act for Domestic Violence Work Leave Goes Into Effect Today

On October 1, 2013, the New Jersey Security and Financial Empowerment Act (NJ SAFE Act) goes into effect across the state. The new law provides workplace leave to eligible employees who are victims of domestic violence or sexual assault as defined under New Jersey law. The NJ SAFE Act applies to workplaces employing 25 or more people and covers unpaid leave of absence for a period not to exceed 20 days in a 12-month period.

To be eligible for NJ SAFE Act leave time, the employee must have worked at least 1,000 hours during the immediately preceding 12-month period. An employee whose child, parent, spouse, domestic partner, or civil union partner is a victim of domestic violence or a sexually violent offense may also be eligible for leave time.

Employees can request leave covered by the SAFE Act for purposes related to:

1. Seeking medical attention for injuries caused by domestic or sexual violence,

2. Obtaining services from a victim services organization,

3. Seeking psychological counseling,

4. Relocating to a temporary or permanent residence,

5. Seeking legal assistance, and

6. Attending, participating in or preparing for a criminal or civil court proceeding.

According to the New Jersey Department of Labor, leave under the NJ SAFE Act must be used in the 12-month period immediately following an instance of domestic violence or a sexually violent offense. The unpaid leave can also be taken intermittently as needed. For example, if you have two court dates that are a month apart, you can apply for leave to cover each day.

To take leave time, an eligible employee must provide the employer with written notice as far in advance as reasonable and practicable under the circumstances. For example, if it is known that an upcoming doctor or lawyer’s appointment related to the incident will require time off from work, the employee should make the request in advance. The employer has the right to require the employee to provide documentation of the domestic violence or sexually violent offense that is the basis for the leave. Valid documentation can include a restraining order, a letter from the prosecutor, documentation of the conviction of the assailant, medical documentation related to the victim, a certification from a certified Domestic Violence Specialist or Rape Crisis Center employee, or a certification or other documentation from a social worker, clergy member, shelter worker or other professional who assisted the victim. 

All documentation related to the leave must be kept confidential by employers, unless disclosure is voluntarily authorized by the employee or is authorized by a federal or State law, rule or regulation. The SAFE Act also prohibits retaliation against employees for exercising their rights.

In offering expanded workplace protection to domestic violence and sexual assault victims, New Jersey joins a number of other states that have similar laws in place, ranging from Colorado, which provides three days of leave to Illinois, which covers 12 work weeks, to Maine, which requires employers to cover any amount of leave that is “reasonable and necessary” for the victim.  California, Connecticut, Florida,  Hawaii, Kansas, Maine, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon and Washington also have domestic violence leave laws on the books.

As of today, a poster outlining complete NJ SAFE Act rules and rights must be placed in all eligible workplaces. A sample of the poster can be found here.