With the wave of new employment laws sweeping the country, New Jersey also passed new employment laws in 2019 that change the landscape for New Jersey employers, including wage and hour issues. Below are a few of the most important new employment laws passed in New Jersey in 2019 that employers should be aware of:
Salary History Ban
Like many other states and municipalities, New Jersey has passed a law prohibiting employers from screening job applicants based on the applicant’s prior salary history (including past wages, salary or benefits). Employers also cannot require that an applicant’s previous salary meet any minimum or maximum threshold in order to be considered for a job. The new law goes into effect on January 1, 2020. New Jersey already has a pay equity law prohibiting unequal pay for “substantially similar” work, and the salary history ban law is another measure the state is taking to address wage inequity. Employers with operations in New Jersey should review employment application and job interview questions to ensure compliance with the law. This will be a big change for employers who may be used to, as a matter of course, asking about prior salary and benefits.
NJ Paid Family Leave Increases to 12 Weeks by 2020:
For many years, New Jersey employers have been required to provide a benefit to employees of up to 6 weeks of paid family leave (through the state’s temporary disability leave benefits program). However, starting July 1, 2020, the new law increases the paid family leave insurance program to 12 weeks and the weekly benefit rate will increase to 85% of the employee’s average weekly wage, with a benefit cap of approximately $850 per week.
New Wage Theft Law Adds New Requirements and Significant Penalties for Wage Violations
New Jersey enacted a Wage Theft law last month which expands the civil and criminal remedies available to employees in New Jersey for nonpayment of wages and retaliation claims. The law also broadens potential liability to employers and officers and agents. The majority of the law went into effect immediately, except for some of the criminal pieces which go into effect November 1, 2019. Below is a summary of some of the key items of this law.
- The NJ law now requires that employers provide employees with a specific written notice regarding wage and hour laws in New Jersey. Once the notice is published by the NJ Department of Labor and Workforce Development, it must be provided to current employees and new hires.
- Statute of Limitations and Liquidated Damages. Under the law, the statute of limitations for unpaid minimum wage and overtime claims increases from two years to six years. This means employees can sue for potential violations looking six years back. Employees can also now obtain liquidated damage penalties of up to two hundred percent of wages deemed to be owed (liquidated damages were not available for these types of claims previously).
- Increased Importance on Maintaining Proper Records. The new law includes provisions that an employer’s failure to keep proper records creates a rebutable presumption that the claims an employee makes regarding time worked, and pay, are to be believed.
- Anti-Retaliation Provisions. The amendments also expand New Jersey’s anti-retaliation provisions to include situations where an employee makes a complaint, brings a lawsuit, or informs another employee about their rights regarding wages and hours. Importantly, there is also now a presumption of retaliation for actions taken against an employee within 90 days of the employee filing a lawsuit or a complaint with the Commissioner.
- Increased Criminal Penalties. There are added penalties, and the new law created a new crime. It provides that a person knowingly commits a crime of a pattern of wage nonpayment if they have been convicted of a violation of certain provisions of the Criminal Justice Code and/or wage and hour laws on two or more occasions.
- Expanded Joint and Successor Liabilities. Organizations may be held liable under the NJ Wage Theft Law as joint or successor employers. There is a now a presumption (that can be rebutted) that a successor entity is liable for the violations of the predecessor if certain factors are met.
With the passage of these laws, and in particular the new wage theft law which is now one of the strictest wage theft laws in the country, it behooves employers to audit their pay, recordkeeping, and onboarding practices and to confer with counsel on these issues.
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