Bill Summary for H 696 (2019-2020)

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Summary date: 

Apr 11 2019

Bill Information:

View NCGA Bill Details2019-2020 Session
House Bill 696 (Public) Filed Wednesday, April 10, 2019
Intro. by Meyer, Batch, Clark, Majeed.

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Bill summary

Enacts new GS Chapter 96A, North Carolina Families First Act, which provides as follows. 

Requires the Division of Employment Security of the Department of Commerce (Division) to establish and administer a family and medical leave insurance program and begin collecting contributions by January 1, 2021. Requires the Division to start receiving claims from and paying benefits to covered individuals by January 1, 2022. Requires notifying an employer within five business days of a claim being filed under this Chapter. Provides for confidentiality of information in the files and records pertaining to an individual  under this Chapter.

Beginning January 1, 2022, makes family and medical leave insurance benefits payable to (1) a covered individual (defined as any person who meets the monetary eligibility criteria in GS 96-14.1(b) or is self-employed, elects coverage, and meets the requirements of GS 96A-13, meets the administrative requirements outlined in this Chapter and in the rules adopted thereunder, and who submits an application); (2) who meets one of the following: is caring for a new child during the first year after the birth, adoption, or placement of that child; is caring for a family member with a serious health condition; has a serious health condition; is caring for a covered service member (as defined in the act) who is the covered individual's next of kin or other family member; or because of any "qualifying exigency leave" arising out of the fact that the family member of the covered individual is on active duty (or has been notified of an impending call or order to active duty) in the Armed Forces. Sets the duration of the benefits depending on the condition under which the covered individual qualifies for the insurance, with durations ranging fro 12 to 26 weeks; requires the first benefit payment to be made within two weeks after filing a claim. Sets out the formula for calculating the weekly benefit and sets limits on the allowable maximum and minimum benefits.

Requires payroll contributions to be authorized in order to finance the payment of benefits under the insurance program. Prohibits an employer from deducting more than 50% of the contribution required for an employee from that employee's wages. Sets out requirements for self-employed individuals who are electing coverage. Requires employers to remit contributions to the new Families First Fund beginning on January 1, 2021. Requires the Assistant Secretary of the Division of Employment Security (Assistant Secretary) to fix the contribution rate for the coming calendar year by October 1; requires that the rate be calculated for 2021 and 2022 based on sound actuarial principles and beginning in 2023 requires the Assistant Secretary to first certify and publish five pieces of information, including the total amount of benefits paid during the previous fiscal year and the total amount remaining in the Fund at the close of the fiscal year. 

Provides that a covered individual is entitled, at their option, to take paid family and medical leave on an intermittent or reduced leave schedule in which all of the leave authorized under this Chapter is not taken sequentially; leave insurance benefits are prorated for intermittent or reduced leave. Sets out additional requirements for scheduling this leave.

Entitles any covered individual who exercises his or her right to leave insurance benefits to be restored by the employer to the position held by the covered individual when the leave commenced, or to a position with equivalent seniority, status, employment benefits, pay, and other terms and conditions of employment that the covered individual had been entitled to at the commencement of leave. Requires the employer, during the leave time, to maintain the individual's health care benefits, provided, however, that the covered individual must continue to pay the covered individual's share of the cost of health benefits as required prior to the commencement of the leave. 

Makes it illegal for an employer or any other person to interfere with, restrain, deny the exercise of, or attempt to exercise, any right protected under the new Chapter. Prohibits an employer, temporary help company, employment agency, employee organization, or other person from taking retaliatory personnel action or discriminating against a person for exercising their rights under the Chapter. Makes it illegal for an employers' absence control policy to count paid family and medical leave leave as an absence that may lead to or result in discipline, discharge, demotion, suspension, or any other adverse action. 

Sets out the liability of an employer who violates the above or the leave and employment protections. Allows for the awarding of attorney's fees and court costs to a prevailing plaintiff. Allows an action to be brought no later than two years after the date of the last event constituting the alleged violation; extends this to three years for willful violations.

Requires leave taken with wage replacement under this Chapter that also qualifies as leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act to run concurrently with leave taken under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Allows an employer to require payments made under this Chapter to be made concurrently or otherwise coordinated with payment made or leave allowed under the terms of disability or family care leave under a collective bargaining agreement or employer policy. Requires giving employees written notice of this requirement. Specifies that this Chapter does not diminish an employer's obligation to comply with any agreements, policies, or law that provides more generous leave.

Requires providing written notice to employees upon hiring and annually thereafter; also requires such notice when the employee requests leave under the Chapter or when the employer acquires knowledge that an employee's leave may be for a qualifying reason. Sets out what is to be included in the notice.  Requires displaying a poster with that same information in the specified languages. Requires employees to provide employers notice as soon as practical of their intention to take leave under this Chapter.

Requires the Assistant Secretary to establish a system for appeal in the case of denial of family and medical leave insurance benefits. Sets out additional provisions governing the appeals. Requires implemented procedures to ensure confidentiality of information related to any claims filed or appeals taken to the maximum extent allowed by law. 

Disqualifies a covered individual from benefits for one year if the individual is determined to have willfully made a false statement or misrepresentation regarding a material fact or willfully failed to report a material fact in obtaining benefits. Allows seeking repayment of erroneously paid or rejected benefits. 

Sets out provisions governing when a self-employed person elects coverage under the Chapter. 

Establishes the Families First Fund with funds to be used for the family and medical leave insurance benefits program.

Requires the Division to report annually by April 1 of each year, beginning on January 1, 2023, to the NCGA on projected and actual program participation by specified categories of information.

Requires the Division to conduct a public education campaign on the leave insurance benefits.

Includes a severability clause.

Requires rules necessary for implementing the act to be adopted by July 1, 2020. 

Effective January 1, 2020.