Employers and their employees enter into an agreement that the employee will work certain hours and perform certain tasks in exchange for a certain wage. When employers fail to uphold their end of the bargain, there are protections in place at the state and federal level to ensure that employees can recover what they are owed.
Wage Laws in New Jersey
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) provides a minimum guaranteed wage of $7.25 per hour. However, each state has their own labor laws governing how employers treat their employees. In New Jersey, labor issues are overseen by the Division of Wage & Hour Compliance, which is part of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development. This Division investigates complaints made by employees who have been victims of wage violations.
The FLSA and other regulations outline specific requirements for employers, including:
- Minimum wage: As of January 2017, the minimum wage in New Jersey is $8.44 per hour; in some cities or counties, this may be higher. Most employees must receive this rate or higher per the State Wage and Hour Law, with a few exceptions, including certain sales positions. While employers can reduce an employee’s rate of pay, it cannot go below the minimum wage, and the employee must receive notice of the change.
- Tips: An employer can pay less than the hourly minimum wage if tips earned by the employee will make up the difference. The state suggests an hourly wage of no less than $2.13 for these positions, which include food service jobs. If the employee’s combined tips and hourly rate do not add up to $8.44 per hour, the employer must make up the difference. The problem of tip skimming or tip pooling is prevalent in the restaurant industry and is unlawful if an employee is paid less than minimum wage.
- Overtime: An employee is eligible for time-and-a-half pay, or a 50 percent increase in their hourly rate when they have exceeded 40 hours of work per week. There are exceptions for certain types of salaried employees, such as those whose main responsibilities include overseeing other employees. However, there are specific criteria that employees must meet to be classified as exempt. Employers cannot ask employees to work off the clock to avoid paying overtime.
- Child Labor: New Jersey has specific rules regarding workers under the age of 18. There are only certain jobs that minors can be hired for, and they must receive the necessary employment certificate before starting work. Employees under age 18 must be given a 30-minute break after working five consecutive hours.
- Unpaid or Withheld Wages: It is illegal for employers to deduct or withhold wages for items such as cash register shortages, uniforms and equipment, or reimbursement for damaged company property.
There are several employment conditions that are not covered by New Jersey state law but are written into an employee’s contract or agreement and can be enforceable. These may include:
- Paid Time Off: The distribution of holidays, vacation time, and sick or personal days beyond what is afforded by the New Jersey Paid Sick Leave is up to the discretion of the employer. However, all employees must be treated uniformly under what policy the employer chooses. There are state and federal laws governing family leave, which are not overseen by the Division of Wage & Hour Compliance.
- Medical Benefits: Health insurance is not mandated by New Jersey state law but may be required under federal law if an employee meets certain criteria.
New Jersey Paid Sick Leave
The New Jersey Paid Sick Leave Act, effective October 29, 2018, supplements N.J.S.A. 34:11-56a, and guarantees paid sick leave for employees. The law requires employers to offer employees one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to 40 hours of sick leave per year. Read our recent blog post for more information.
An employer’s failure to provide sick leave under the act is considered a violation of the State’s Wage and Hour law and such employers will be subject to the same remedies, penalties, and other measure provided by such law, except that an award under this act shall include any actual damages and liquidated damages, in addition to those provided under Wage and Hour law.
Claims for Wage Violations
Employers are required to pay employees on time and in the correct amount, including any earned overtime, commissions, or bonuses. When they fail to do so, or try to withhold wages illegally, the employee can file a complaint with the Division of Wage and Hour Compliance, which will investigate the claim and help the employee recover what they determine he or she is owed. Employees can also pursue a lawsuit against their employer. In New Jersey, employees can also collect liquidated damages in the amount of the unpaid wages as compensation for the delay in payment.
Misclassification of Independent Contractors
Litigation over the misclassification of employees as independent contractors is on the rise. There has been a growing shift amongst employers, especially in the gig or sharing economy to misclassify employees as independent contractors to cut costs.
To determine whether an employee has been misclassified, courts will assess a number of factors, including whether the employer exercised control over the worker, and whether the services were conducted in furtherance of the company’s usual business.
The consequences of misclassifying workers are enormous and include payment of back wages, overtime wages, back taxes, social security and Medicare taxes, unemployment insurance taxes and benefits, attorney’s fees, and health insurance and benefits
Atlantic County Employment Lawyers at Levine Staller Provide Comprehensive Representation to Victims of Wage Violations
Filing a wage claim can be a complicated process, especially if issues such as retaliation or wage discrimination are factors. The Atlantic County employment lawyers at Levine, Staller, Sklar, Chan & Brown, P.A. help employees navigate these complexities and determine the best course of action to recover the compensation they are entitled. Our lawyers have the knowledge and experience to handle all types of wage and hour claims, and we are dedicated to achieving the best possible outcome for our clients. Call us at 609-348-1300 or contact us online to schedule a consultation today. Our offices are conveniently located in Atlantic City, New Jersey and we serve clients throughout Atlantic County, Ocean County, and Cape May County.