TRENTON – Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin announced today that the Division on Civil Rights (DCR) has finalized consent decrees resulting in the recovery of a total of over $200,000 in relief in two cases alleging that employers violated the New Jersey Family Leave Act (NJFLA). The settlements resolve complaints that the former employers violated the NJFLA by terminating employees who requested leave to bond with their newborn children.
The NJFLA requires that certain employees be permitted to take up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave during any 24-month period to care for or bond with a newborn child, to care for a family member with a serious health condition, or in other specific circumstances. The Act applies to employees who have worked at least 1,000 hours in the past 12 months and have been employed for at least one year either by state and local government agencies or by employers with 30 or more employees worldwide.
Under the consent decrees announced today, the discount retailer Gabriel Brothers, d/b/a Gabe’s, has agreed to pay $113,500 in total relief to resolve a complaint alleging that a former employee was terminated for requesting NJFLA-protected leave. Pine Belt Management LLC, a car dealership located in Lakewood, has agreed to pay $105,000 in total relief to resolve a similar complaint from a former employee. Both employers have also agreed to ensure that all policies and decisions affecting employees comply with the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD) and the NJFLA, and to refrain from taking any action or put any practices in place that discourage or impede an employee’s ability to take NJFLA leave to which they are legally entitled.
“The New Jersey Family Leave Act protects a parent’s right to take time away from work to bond with their child without fear of losing their job,” said Attorney General Platkin. “New Jersey employers should know that we will not tolerate violations of that important law.”
“Our laws provide strong protections for employees who seek to take leave to bond with their children or to take care of sick loved ones,” said Sundeep Iyer, Director of the Division on Civil Rights. “The consent decrees we are announcing today reflect our ongoing commitment to protecting the rights of our residents under the New Jersey Family Leave Act.”
One of the two consent decrees announced today arises from a complaint filed with DCR by a “customer experience ambassador” for Gabriel Brothers at their branch in Vineland, New Jersey. The complainant alleged that Gabriel Brothers terminated her for requesting leave under the NJFLA to bond with her newborn. In August 2019, the employee, who had been on maternity leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) following the birth of her child, informed Gabriel Brothers that she wanted to use an additional six weeks of bonding time, which she was entitled to under the NJFLA, after her FMLA leave expired. Towards the end of that six weeks of requested NJFLA leave, the complainant visited the retailer to learn her upcoming work schedule. However, she was informed that she had been terminated the month prior, purportedly for failing to communicate with Gabriel Brothers about her return to work.
The second consent decree arises from a complaint filed with DCR by a service advisor for Pine Belt. The complainant alleged that Pine Belt denied him leave to which he was entitled under the NJFLA and then terminated him in retaliation for requesting it. In February 2018, the complainant requested intermittent leave to begin the next month, in anticipation of the birth of his child. However, the day after the complainant attempted to set his leave schedule with Pine Belt management, his employment was terminated.
DCR’s investigations found sufficient evidence that both companies failed to meet their obligations under the NJFLA.
Gabriel Brothers agreed to pay $113,500 in total relief. The company agreed to pay $66,000 to compensate the employee. They must also pay $44,000 in attorney’s fees and $3,500 to DCR.
Pine Belt agreed to pay a total of $105,000 in relief. Under the agreement, the former employee was awarded $67,000. Pine Belt will also pay $33,000 in attorney’s fees, and $5,000 to DCR.
In addition to the payments to the respective complainants and payments to DCR in lieu of penalty, each respondent also agreed to hold trainings on its NJFLA policy and the NJFLA for all individuals involved in the processing of leave requests.
The New Jersey Division on Civil Rights enforces the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, the New Jersey Family Leave Act, and the Fair Chance in Housing Act, and works to prevent, eliminate, and remedy discrimination and bias-based harassment in employment, housing, and places of public accommodation throughout New Jersey.
To find out more information or to file a complaint, visit www.njcivilrights.gov.