This year has been a busy time for employment topics and August looks to continue the trend. On August 6, 2019 New Jersey’s Wage Theft Act (WTA) was signed into law and, with the exception of certain provisions on criminal offenses, went into immediate effect.

The WTA was written to provide strong protection, now one of the broadest in the country, for New Jersey employees, putting more responsibility on employers to adhere to labor laws. Some of the important points of the WTA include:

  • Provision for wages owed PLUS liquidated damages (up to 200% of wages owed) to the employee
  • Significantly increasing fines and potential jail time for the offending employer, if found guilty
  • Establishing a six year statute of limitations for claims (including retaliation claims) under the New Jersey State Wage and Hour Laws (federal statute is three years)
  • Defining client-employers and labor contractors jointly and severally liable for any violations of New Jersey State and Hour laws including retaliation; meaning an employer can be responsible for violations of labor contractors it hires (with the exception for some bona-fide labor organizations)
  • Declaring any waiver of its “joint and several liability” section described above as “void and unenforceable” - meaning employers cannot protect themselves against claims stemming from a labor contractor’s actions by having them sign a waiver
  • Creating a rebuttable presumption in favor of the employee if the employer fails to provide records which are required to be kept under New Jersey State Wage and Hour Laws
  • Creating a rebuttable presumption of successor liability - meaning an employer cannot escape liability by creating a new company if facts prove it is a successor entity. Facts examined would include, but are not limited to, work performed in the same geographic area, occupation of the same premises, retaining the same telephone, fax, email or website, employing essentially the same workforce and/or administrative employees, and engaging the same person(s) involved in the direct control of the business.
  • Requiring employers to provide a notice to each current and new employee explaining their rights and how to file claims

While there was a final amendment added at the last minute to provide first-time offenders an opportunity to avoid liquidated damages, the ability to qualify for this provision involves an admission to a violation and payment of the full amount owed within 30 days of the notice of violation.

Business owners should not ignore the current climate of employment legislation. Now is the time to:

  1. Confirm your workers are properly classified as exempt, non-exempt, independent contractor, etc.
  2. Review your recordkeeping and retention policies to ensure compliance with all State and Federal regulations
  3. Confirm all Federal and State required postings and employee notices are up-to-date
  4. Review your policies, procedures and compliance with regards to minimum wage, overtime, mandatory sick leave and all State Wage and Hour Laws with a qualified professional

It often feels like there is a steady stream of new regulations, pronouncements and laws continually being announced at the federal and state level. It is our goal to keep you well-informed about the changes and the impact on you and your organization.   In addition, we are committed to offering you the most efficient and effective ways to comply with any new acts and laws as they appear on the horizon.