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Juggling potential employment law benefits

Those who juggle call it an art and a sport. Regardless of how you describe it, it takes lots of practice to master keeping multiple things in the air at once. We draw on this to suggest an analogy between juggling and the practice of employment law.

Attorneys skilled in protecting worker rights don’t juggle balls, torches or chain saws. Rather, what they are called upon to do is know all the laws that might apply to a particular situation, whether they happen to be federal or state. Further, they need to understand how the laws apply. Does one supersede another? Do the various laws complement each other in ways that can benefit the client? These are questions that need answering to assure optimal outcomes.

 

A court case from a state other than New Jersey is what brings this to mind. The question before that state’s Supreme Court was whether a person taking unpaid leave from a job under the federal Family Medical Leave Act can also be considered unemployed under the state’s Unemployment Compensation Act. The implication of the question is that if the person on FMLA is unemployed under the state law, he or she might be able to collect unemployment benefits.

The court did rule that the person qualified as unemployed, but it did not offer an opinion on the bigger question of whether the person can receive unemployment benefits. So, there are still issues to be resolved.

As a federal law, the FMLA applies in New Jersey, as does the New Jersey Family Leave act. The laws allow an employee up to 12 weeks of leave without pay to deal with clearly identified medical or family concerns. Because of restrictions in the laws, some employees might not be eligible to take leave. But those who do meet requirements enjoy the assurance that they can’t be fired for taking the time.

Unlike the situation mentioned in the court case above, collecting unemployment during unpaid leave in New Jersey is unlikely. That’s because all employers covered by the unemployment compensation system also must carry Family Leave Insurance which pays monetary benefits for up to six weeks. And the employer can require a person on leave to use up all accrued vacation or sick time first before invoking the 12 weeks of time available under FMLA.

That’s something most people are probably not aware of, but which employment law attorneys should be. We stay informed so that we can help people navigate the complexities of employment laws. If you believe you have a potential employment claim, contact us.

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