NJ Supreme Court to Hear Course on Disability Leave

January 12, 2005 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - When it stands before the New Jersey Supreme Court next week, the state's Employer Association will try to persuade the court that it should overturn a lower court ruling that could threaten paid disability leave.

The case being focused on is Gerety v. Atlantic City Hilton Hotel, where an employee – Christina Gerety – who was suffering from a complicated pregnancy was fired after she was out of the job for over 26 weeks. The Atlantic County Superior Court ruled that the casino’s 26 week paid disability leave policy constituted job discrimination based on gender, according to a news report in The Bergen (New Jersey) Record.

The case, heard by Judge Daryl Todd, never made it to a jury to decide the damages, according to The Record. The casino tried to have the judgment vacated by the state Appellate Division; the Division, however, decided not to consider it. However, the state Supreme Court has decided to hear it.

New Jersey employers with 50 or fewer employees are not required to pay disability leave, and Sarno worries that this decision will make it less likely that they will offer such benefits.

“Our hope is to reverse the decision,” Employers Association of New Jersey President John Sarno told The Record. “We need to allow employers to establish and administer leave policies that best meet their business needs as well as the needs of their employees.”

“About half the state’s employees work at firms having fewer than 50 employees and therefore have no legal requirement to provide disability leave,” he added. “The unintended consequence might be for employers to be hesitant to grant disability leave in the first place.”

The plaintiff’s attorney, Van Syoc, disagreed with Sarno’s assessment of the potential outcome. “The idea that this could hurt other employees is preposterous. Pregnant women aren’t going to be losing their leave or their jobs because of this decision,” he told The Record. “It’s my perception that this argument amounts to grasping at any straw.”

Next Tuesday’s testimony can be seen live at 1 p.m. by visiting www.judiciary.state.nj.us/webcast/index.htm .