New Jersey Delays Expansion of State WARN Act, Amends Family Leave Act

Author: David B. Weisenfeld, XpertHR Legal Editor

April 23, 2020

New Jersey's planned expansion of its Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act has been delayed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Gov. Phil Murphy has issued an executive order that excludes COVID-19 layoffs from the state's mini WARN Act and also postpones the effective date of amendments that would have broadly expanded the law this summer.

Effective July 19, 2020, the original amendments would have increased the notice period for mass layoffs, transfers and plant closings from 60 days to 90 days. They also would have required severance pay of one week per year of service for all affected employees, with an added four weeks if the employer failed to provide full WARN notice.

But the executive order postpones those changes. In addition, the mini WARN Act excludes from the definition of "mass layoff" any layoff that is attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic. Also excluded from the state's mini WARN Act are mass layoffs due to other natural disasters or emergencies, including among other things:

  • An act of war;
  • Civil disorder;
  • Fire;
  • Flood; or
  • Industrial sabotage.

The executive order gives employers an additional 90 days from the last day of the end of the state's public health emergency before the original amendments to the mini WARN Act could take effect. The state of emergency remains in place indefinitely "until revoked or modified by the Governor."

The state's public schools already have been closed at least through May 15, and Gov. Murphy has said publicly there is no guarantee of a statewide reopening before the end of the school year.

New Jersey Family Leave Act and Other Changes

Gov. Murphy also has signed legislation that expands the New Jersey Family Leave Act (NJFLA) to provide employees forced to take time off to care for a family member during the COVID-19 outbreak with up to 12 weeks of unpaid family leave in a 24-month period. The changes are retroactive to March 25, 2020.

"New Jerseyans should not have to make a decision between caring for a loved one with COVID-19 and keeping their job," said Gov. Murphy.

The protections also provide that leave may be taken on an intermittent basis. Under the NJFLA, leave is triggered when an employee needs to care for a:

  • Child whose school or childcare facility is closed due to an epidemic or public health emergency;
  • Family member subject to a mandatory quarantine order because of an illness caused by an epidemic where the family member's exposure would jeopardize the health of others; and
  • Family member who is in voluntary self-quarantine recommended by a health care provider or public authority due to suspected exposure to a communicable disease.

This law also amends the New Jersey Family Leave Insurance (NJFLI) law to provide paid family leave benefits to an employee in the event of a state of emergency, an epidemic of a communicable disease, a known or suspected exposure to the communicable disease or efforts to prevent the spread of the communicable disease, to provide in-home care or treatment of a family member due to:

  • The determination by a health care provider, the commissioner or other public health authority that the family member's presence in the community may jeopardize the health of others; and
  • The recommendation, direction or order of the provider or authority that the family member be isolated or quarantined as a result of suspected exposure to a communicable disease.

New Jersey also eliminated the seven-day waiting period for collecting temporary disability benefits for sickness related to an epidemic.