Preventive Law for Employers
NJ Employment Law

Violence Victims Entitled to Job Leave

On October 1, 2013, the New Jersey Security and Financial Empowerment Act, commonly known as the “NJ SAFE Act,” went into force.  The new law allows an eligible employee to take 20 days of unpaid leave during a 12-month period in the event the employee or the employee’s child, parent, spouse, domestic partner or civil union partner is a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault. This new law applies to New Jersey employers with 25 or more employees.

To be eligible for leave under the NJ SAFE Act, an employee must  (1) have worked for the employer for at least 12 months and (2) have put in 1,000 hours or more of work during the preceding 12-month period.   This is the same service requirement found in the NJ Family Leave Act.  The unpaid leave must be taken within one year of the incident of domestic violence or sexual assault.

According to the Legislature, the purpose of the law to is allow employees who are assault victims or are caring for family members who are victims to have time to do the following,  without losing their jobs: (1) seek medical attention for, or recover from, physical or psychological injuries; (2) obtain services from victim assistance programs; (3) get counseling; (4) relocate or take other steps to increase safety for themselves or the victim; (5) seek legal assistance; and (6) attend court proceedings related to the incident of domestic or sexual violence.

If the need for leave under the NJ SAFE Act is foreseeable–such as a court date–employees are supposed to give written notice to the employer as far in advance as possible under the circumstances. Employers are allowed to ask for documentation supporting the need for leave, such as a copy of a restraining order, medical records,  a certification from a certified domestic violence specialist or rape crisis center employee; or documentation from a social worker, clergy member, or other professional who assisted the victim.

Of course, there is a required poster, which you can get here:  And, naturally, the NJ SAFE Act prohibits retaliation against employees for the exercising their rights.   Violations can be pursued by employes in  Superior Court; the statute of limitations is one year.   A prevailing plaintiff may recover both economic and non-economic damages, as well as attorneys’ fees and costs. The court may also order reinstatement of the employee, enjoin the employer from continued violation of the Act and impose a civil fine between $1,000 and $2,000 for a first violation and not more than $5,000 for each subsequent violation of the NJ SAFE Act.

What This Means to You:

New Jersey employers with 25 or more employees should should immediately post the requried notice.   They should also update their employee handbooks to include leave rights under the NJ SAFE Act, and include the NJ SAFE Act in any employee and management training about leaves or violence in the workplace.


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Who is Ann Kiernan?

Ann Kiernan is an employment lawyer who has been practicing law in New Jersey for more than 30 years. She represents only employers and management and regularly provides management training companies big and small. Employment law is constantly changing, and Ann is familiar how these changes affect employers. To keep up-to-date and learn what issues are currently affecting businesses and employers in New Jersey, read the blog.

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Ann may be reached via telephone at 732-846-3201 and email.

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