Citing to studies linking parental involvement with academic success, a bill (A1421) introduced on January 10, 2012 would provide up to eight hours of leave time during any 12-month period for a parent or guardian of a public school child to attend any conference, meeting, function or other event requested or required by the school administration. In order to be eligible, the employee must be employed for at least 12 months with no less than 1,000 base hours during the prior 12-month period. Under the proposed law, the principal of the child’s school would be responsible for providing written advance notice of the need for such employee leave, as well as certification of the employee’s attendance.

The bill specifically provides that it does not limit, restrict or reduce an employee’s right to leave under New Jersey’s Family Leave Act, the federal Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 or any collective bargaining agreement or other employer policy. In addition, employers would be prohibited from discriminating against or discharging employees for seeking to take advantage of the eight hours of leave time, and employers would be required to post a notice concerning the law in the workplace. Civil penalties for violating the law would range from $2,000 to $5,000, as well as the full range of damages in a private cause of action: equitable, compensatory, economic and punitive damages. Punitive damages would be capped at $10,000 in individual suits, but up to $500,000 (or 1% of the defendant’s net worth, whichever is less) in private class actions. Attorneys’ fees also would be available. Previous versions of this bill were introduced in 2006, 2008 and 2010, but failed to advance.

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