The Star-Ledger

Amended Paid Family Leave Bill Passes Assembly Committee

The Star-Ledger — Monday, March 10, 2008

Susan K. Livio / The Star-Ledger

The Assembly Appropriations Committee today approved a bill that would allow employees to take time off with pay to care for family members, after amending the legislation to close a loophole that would protect businesses from lawsuits.

The changes were prompted by a Feb. 27 opinion from the Attorney General's office that recommended the state rewrite a portion of the bill (A873) that allows a company with fewer than 50 workers to replace a person who takes the six-week leave of absence. Lawmakers included the language in recognition that some small-business owners wouldn't be able to operate that long without key positions filled. But the attorney general's staff said the language was not clear enough to prevent wrongful termination lawsuits.

The paid family leave bill, if ultimately signed into law, would allow workers to apply for leave to care for a newborn or newly adopted child or sick parent, spouse or child, collecting a maximum of $524 a week. The benefit would be funded by worker contributions of about $33 a year through an employee payroll tax.

"We have worked diligently with everyone,'' said the bill's Assembly sponsor, Nelson Albano (D-Cumberland), noting that at the request of business leaders, an earlier version that sought 12 weeks was replaced with of six weeks off. "This is about protecting and giving insurance – and assurance – if you happen to come across this in your lifetime...there will be some income coming in to help make ends meet.''

The committee approved the bill after a three-hour hearing that once again pitted mostly business owners who oppose the bill against labor leaders and groups like the AARP who spoke in its favor.

In order for the bill to become law, the amended bill still needs the full Assembly's approval, then be voted on by the Senate which approved an earlier version. Gov. Jon Corzine must sign the legislation to make it law.

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