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Thursday, December 19, 2019

NJ Employees and Wage Theft Act-Part 1, NJ Wage Payment Law Amendments

Acting Governor Sheila Oliver signed the New Jersey Wage Theft Act into law earlier this year. This Act is considered by many to be the toughest wage theft statute in the US.The New Jersey Wage Theft Act amends many of NJ’s existing civil and criminal statutes and three employment statutes mandating wages:

Two of the amended statutes addressing wages are:

1.) N.J.S.A. 34:11-4.1, et seq., the New Jersey Wage Payment Law, which mandates the mode and time that employers must pay wages to employees, which is typically at least twice a month.

2.  N.J.S.A. 34:11-56a, et seq., the New Jersey Wage and Hour Law, mandating the payment of minimum and overtime wages to employees. It mandates employers pay employees who do not fall within an exemption the minimum wage, currently set at $10 per hour for most workers, and time-and-half when they work more than 40 hours in any particular workweek.

The construction of the Act is complex in various sections and time will tell how two or more sections effect the others. The 2019 Amendments to the New Jersey Wage Payment Law include:

Increased Protection from Retaliation

While the Wage Payment Law already prohibited retaliation by employers against employees who seek to enforce their right under the law, The NJ Wage Theft Act amends the Wage Payment Law to expand the prohibitions of an employer’s retaliation against workers who complain about their employers' alleged violations of the Wage Payment Law. This protection from employer retaliation is not limited to formal complaints filed in a court. Workers’ actions explicitly protected from retaliation under the Wage Theft Act now include:

  • Worker’s complaints to their employers about alleged violations,
  • Employees’ complaints to employee representatives.

Presumption of Retaliation If Claim Is Filed

If  an employer takes an adverse action ( terminates, demotes, reduction of hours, etc.) against an employee within 90 days of the employee’s filing a complaint in Court or with the Department of Labor, the Wage Theft Act creates a rebuttable presumption that the employer’s adverse action was taken against the employee in retaliation for the filing of such complaint. If in litigation, the standard for an employer to rebut this presumption is the standard of clear and convincing evidence that the action was taken for other, permissible, reasons, which standard is a very high burden for an employer.

Right to Reinstatement

In addition to the various other penalties and remedies, the Wage Theft Act also provides that an employer offer reinstatement to an employee discharged in retaliation for complaining about a violation of the Wage Payment Law and be restored to former job unless prohibited by law.

Availability of Liquidated Damages/ Increased Employer Liability

The Wage Theft Act expands employer liability in such actions and permits employees to recover liquidated damages of up to 200 percent of the wages recovered in addition to the recovered wages. This Amendment now more than triples employers' potential wage liability for violations of the Wage Payment Law. Although the Wage Theft Act provides employers with a good faith defense to liquidated damages, that defense is only available where the employer pays the employee the amounts due within 30 days and admits the violation, and the violation was a first offense and was inadvertent error made in good faith.

Class Actions

The amendment stipulates that employees may still bring class actions under the Wage Payment Law on behalf of similarly situated employees who have experienced the same violation of their rights.

Successor Liability  

It relaxes the burden to establish that a new company is the employer's successor and therefore liable for the employer's violation. Employees now only have to demonstrate that two, rather than three, of a series of characteristics are shared by the two companies. This is important in an age when companies are being bought and sold with much frequency, and an employee may work doing the same job for several decades but have different employers.

Express Private Right of Action Against Employer in Court

While New Jersey employees have successfully sued their employers in Court for alleged violations of the Wage Payment Law, the Wage Theft Act amends the Wage Payment Law to explicitly permit employees to file against the employer in Court.

Do not sit on your rights, or you may lose the right to file your claim.

If your employer did not pay you in accordance with the law, or has a rule against discussing pay, or if you think you have been retaliated against for asserting your legal rights, it is essential for you to contact an experienced, aggressive and successful employment discrimination and whistleblower attorney who will be aggressive about enforcing your rights as soon as possible.

If you have been demoted, had your hours cut, terminated, harassed or been subjected to retaliation for complaining about, objecting to, refusing to participate in, or reporting what you believe is your employer’s illegal wage payment or improper conduct, you should contact this law firm as soon as possible. I am an experienced, aggressive and compassionate employment attorney who will be aggressive about enforcing your rights.  I am successful in bringing discrimination and whistleblower lawsuits and recovering money for workers.

If you are being subjected to such unlawful workplace acts or retaliation, contact Hope A. Lang, Attorney at Law today for a free consultation. I accept whistleblower and discrimination cases from all over New Jersey.

New Jersey employment attorney, Hope A. Lang, Attorney at Law serves clients throughout the state, including Bergen, Middlesex, Essex, Hudson, Monmouth, Ocean, Union, Camden, Passaic, and Morris Counties with locations in Southern, Central, Western and Northern NJ to meet with clients.


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