The Star-Ledger

Family Leave Bill Passes Assembly, Needs Senate Re-Vote

The Star-Ledger — Thursday, March 13, 2008

Susan K. Livio / The Star-Ledger

A bill allowing workers to take a paid leave of absence to take care of family members moved closer to becoming law today, despite a contentious Assembly debate over whether the program would hurt New Jersey's weakening economy.

The Assembly passed the paid family leave act, allowing workers to apply for up to six weeks off to care for a newborn and a newly adopted child, or a sick parent, spouse or child. Employees could collect two-thirds of their pay, up to a maximum of $524 a week.

The benefit would be funded by worker contributions of an estimated $33 a year through a mandatory employee payroll tax. The bill (A873) passed by a vote of 46 to 30 with two abstentions.

Assemblywoman and co-sponsor Sheila Oliver (D-Essex) insisted the program is not hostile to business. "It's high time some decisions occur in this building that are policies that support the 4 million people who sent us down here."

Assemblywoman Marcia Karrow (R-Hunterdon) responded: "I haven't heard from 4 million people but I have heard plenty of young people, unemployed people, asking for jobs."

Opponents contend the bill will make it harder for employers to do business in New Jersey. "It's so easy to go to Pennsylvania – to move a business there," Karrow said.

The bill allows a business with fewer than 50 employees to dismiss and replace a worker who takes family leave, if it can show that it cannot operate without filling that position.

The legislation was amended in the Assembly to provide more protection to those businesses against lawsuits. Because of that, it must return to the Senate for another vote before going on to Gov. Jon Corzine, who has said he will sign it into law.

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