🏢 A proposal would extend job protections to many more New Jersey workers

🏢 Advocates say all workers on paid family leave should have a job guarantee

🏢 Critics say many small employers can't handle another abusive law

Taking paid family leave is fine, but still having your job when you want to come back to work is not a guarantee.

That's the current scenario for countless workers in the Garden State, as New Jersey requires job protection only when an employer has 30 or more workers.

But a bill advancing through the New Jersey Legislature would bring that threshold all the way down to a minimum count of five employees.

Workers' rights advocates believe job protection should be a right for any worker, since they all pay into the state's Family Leave Insurance Program. But critics of the bill say it could have a detrimental impact on small businesses in the state.

'Fundamentally unjust' employers?

Under the measure approved by the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Monday, and by the Assembly Labor Committee in late November, the extension would be phased in over two years. At that point, the job security that's afforded today to workers who take paid leave to care for a new child or a sick relative would be extended to a much bigger pool of workers.

The bill is scheduled for a full Assembly vote on Thursday.

Peter Chen, senior policy analyst for New Jersey Policy Perspective, told lawmakers it is "fundamentally unjust" that workers pay into a program for leave insurance and only some are promised to still have their jobs when they actually take advantage of the program.

"Even if this bill goes through as currently written, it would still leave hundreds of thousands of employees unable to access this benefit without worrying about being fired," Chen said.

In response, Assemblyman Jay Webber, R-Morris, said the employer's point of view should be considered as well.

"Please, someone recognize that employers have pressures, too, and sometimes they have good reasons for saying, 'no,'" Webber said.

The original version of the measure would have extended protection to all businesses in the state, but it was tweaked to exclude operations with four or fewer employees.

Still, Eileen Kean, the New Jersey director for the National Federation of Independent Business, said the proposed law would be a bad move for small operations.

"Guaranteeing the exact same job is a serious burden because they are small operations running on small profits," Kean said.

And the New Jersey Business & Industry Association voiced concerns that the move would increase legal claims against employers.

The measure cleared the Assembly Appropriations Committee by a vote of 7 to 4. Assemblyman Brian Bergen, R-Morris, who voted against the measure, called it absurd and abusive to small-business owners.

"If people want this particular benefit or some other ones, go to a big company," Bergen said.

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