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NJ Emergency Responder Leave in the Aftermath of Hurricane Sandy

On November 15, 2012 by Schnader in Labor and Employment

By Michael J. Wietrzychowski

Many employers aren’t aware that New Jersey affords unpaid leave and job protection for emergency responders when states of emergency are declared.  Under the law, “no employer shall terminate, dismiss or suspend an employee who fails to report for work at his place of employment because he is serving as a volunteer emergency responder during a state of emergency declared by the President of the United States or the Governor of this State or is actively engaged in responding to an emergency alarm.”

To qualify for job protection, the employee must meet two criteria:

  1. the employee provides his employer with notice, at least one hour before he is scheduled to report to his place of employment, that he is rendering emergency services in response to a declared state of emergency or emergency alarm; and
  2. upon returning to his place of employment, a copy of the incident report and a certification by the incident commander, or other official or officer in charge, affirming that the volunteer emergency responder was actively engaged in, and necessary for, rendering emergency services and setting forth the date and time the volunteer emergency responder was relieved from emergency duty by that officer or official, as the case may be.

Where the employee is actively engaged in rendering emergency services for more than one consecutive work day, the incident commander, or other official or officer in charge, shall direct that appropriate notice be given the employee’s employer each day the volunteer is required to be absent from his employment.

Under the law, a “volunteer emergency responder” means an active member in good standing of a volunteer fire company, a volunteer member of a duly incorporated first aid, rescue or ambulance squad, or a member of any county or municipal volunteer Office of Emergency Management, provided the member’s official duties include responding to a fire or emergency call.

The law provides that the leave is unpaid.  However, a volunteer emergency responder may charge his absence as a vacation day or a sick day, if the volunteer has such days available.

Finally, the law does not apply to any employee who, by statute or contract, is deemed an essential employee.

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