Navigating the complexities of employment rights can often feel like traversing a maze, and whether employees can take bereavement leave is a common concern. Bereavement leave refers to the time off work granted by an employer to an employee following the death of a close family member. It is a period designed to allow employees to grieve, make funeral arrangements, and handle other related matters without the added stress of work. The concept behind bereavement leave is rooted in compassion and understanding that grieving is a process that requires time and space.
New Jersey has no law requiring employers to provide bereavement leave. However, many employers offer it as part of their benefits package. Some employers provide specific days for bereavement leave, while others may include it in a bank of paid time off (PTO) that employees can use as needed.
The choice to offer bereavement leave ultimately lies with the employer. They may see it as a way to foster a supportive workplace culture or to ensure employee well-being and productivity in the long run. When employees are allowed the time to cope with personal losses, they are likely to return to work more focused and engaged.
Wrongful Termination and Bereavement Leave
The complexity arises when an employee is terminated for taking leave not expressly provided for in the employment contract or by the law. In such cases, the terminated employee might have a claim for wrongful termination.
In New Jersey, the law against discrimination prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on various grounds, including disability. If an employee can demonstrate that the grief and emotional distress experienced due to the loss of a loved one qualifies as a disability, then terminating them for taking leave to manage that grief could potentially be seen as discriminatory.
New Jersey Law Against Discrimination
The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) is one of the most comprehensive anti-discrimination statutes in the country. It prohibits employment discrimination based on numerous protected characteristics, and disability is one of them.
While grief is not traditionally considered a disability, severe grief can escalate into conditions like depression or post-traumatic stress disorder, which can fall under the umbrella of disabilities covered by the NJLAD. Therefore, if an employee is terminated for taking time off to deal with such conditions following losing a loved one, they may have a claim under the NJLAD.
Our South Jersey Employment Lawyers at The Law Offices of Leo B. Dubler, III, LLC Can Protect Your Rights
While bereavement leave is not required in New Jersey, you may be able to use other types of leave offered by your employer. However, if you think your rights have been violated, speak with our South Jersey employment lawyers at The Law Offices of Leo B. Dubler, III, LLC today. Call us at 856-235-7075 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. Located in Mount Laurel and Atlantic City, New Jersey, we proudly serve clients in South Jersey, including Cherry Hill, Burlington County, and Camden County.