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Thursday, December 26, 2019

Help for NJ Employees Who Have Not Been Paid Overtime: Wage Theft Act-Part 2, NJ Wage and Hour Law Amendments

As discussed earlier, the toughest wage theft statute in this country was signed into law this year by Acting Governor Sheila Oliver. The New Jersey Wage Theft Act amends three existing statutes which address employee wages and numerous New Jersey criminal statutes. The drafting of the various provisions of the NJ Wage Theft Act is complex and time will how one or more of the new amendments will affect the others. The three amended statutes effected by this Act are: 1) N.J.S.A. 34:11-4.1, et seq., the New Jersey Wage Payment Law; 2) N.J.S.A. 34:11-56a, et seq., the New Jersey Wage and Hour Law; and 3) N.J.S.A. 34:11-57, et seq., the New Jersey Wage Collection Law.

NJ Wage Theft Act Helps Persons Find Redress Who Have Not Been Paid Proper Overtime Wages.

Under the Act, employers face stiff penalties for violations of the New Jersey Wage and Hour Law, as well as other provisions. This Act will help workers whose employers did not pay them the legal amount of overtime. Most employees have employment that does not fall into an exempted category from the required payment of overtime wages. The NJ Wage and Hour Law requires employers to pay minimum and overtime wages of employees who are not in an exemption category. The minimum wage is currently set at $10 per hour for most workers, and employers must pay them time-and-half when employees work more than 40 hours in any particular workweek.

Although its goal is to stop and prevent any future employer’s theft of wages by paying less than improper wages or by failure to pay overtime, the Act goes far beyond punishing intentional wage theft. These new amendments for the Wage and Hour law significantly increases an violator/employer’s liability for its NJ state wage law violations.

It Triples the Statute of Limitations

Previously, the statute of limitations for filing a claim of violation of NJ Wage and Hour law was typically two years. The Amended Wage and Hour law extended the statute of limitations for such claims to six years. This will help numerous employees who sometimes do not learn about their right to receive overtime pay until after they have worked for an employer for many years. They now will be able to recoup from their employers, as applicable, six years’ worth of unpaid wages.

It Triples the Amount of Monetary Damages

Employer/violators who are found in violation of the law may have to pay back both the wrongfully withheld wages plus two hundred percent of the unpaid wages, plus attorneys’ fees. This effectively triples the amount a wronged employee may recover.

It Increases Protection from Retaliation

The NJ Wage Theft Act amends the Wage and Hour 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 is not limited to retaliation for formal complaints filed in a court. Workers’ complaints of violations explicitly protected from retaliation under the Wage Theft Act now include:

  • worker’s complaints to their employers about alleged violations of overtime and minimum wages and other violations of the Wage and Hour Law
  • employees’ complaints to employee representatives about non-payment of overtime and other violations of the Wage and Hour Law.

It Changes the Legal Presumption of Retaliation If a Claim Is Filed

With the Amended Wage and Hour Law, if an employer takes adverse action ( such as a cut in hours, demotion or termination, etc.) against an employee within 90 days of that employee’s filing a complaint or in a 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. This makes it much more difficult for an employer to prove in Court that they are innocent of the charge that the adverse action was anything other than the employer’s illegal retaliation for the employee’s complaint of a violation of the Wage and Hour Law.

Express Private Right of Action in Court

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

Class Actions Explicitly Allowed

The Wage Theft Act clearly stipulates that employees still can bring class actions under the Wage and Hour Law and Wage Payment Law on behalf of similarly situated co-workers who have experienced the same employer’s violation of their rights.

Wage and Hour Successor Liability

In an age when companies are frequently being bought and sold, and an employee may work doing the same job for several decades but have different employers, the amended statute relaxes the burden to establish that a new company is the employer's successor, and therefore liable for the employer's violation. This is especially helpful when coupled with the new increase to the Statute of Limitations from two years to six years.

The NJ Wage Theft Act protects the right to earn a fair wage, as stated so succinctly by Acting Governor Sheila Oliver, “We must ensure that every hardworking individual in New Jersey receives the wages they worked hard to earn.......I am proud to sign this legislation that will protect the rights of workers, furthering the Murphy-Oliver Administration’s commitment to build a stronger and fairer New Jersey through protecting the right to earn a fair wage.”

For a text of the Senate bill as was amended by the General Assembly on June 10, 2019 concerning when an employer fails to pay wages according to law, read here:for a synopsis of the law regarding failure to pay wages.

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 or improper conduct or wage payment, 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 employment retaliation, 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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