Federal and state law require New Jersey employers to pay a minimum wage to non-exempt employees, and to compensate them for overtime at a rate of time-and-a-half. Employers who fail to do so may be liable to their employees for back wages and other damages. They may also be liable for civil penalties to federal or state regulatory agencies. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced late last year that it had recovered more than $350,000 in damages from a New Jersey employer. The DOL’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) reportedly found that the company paid its employees a flat salary, and that this amount was less than minimum wage when compared to the actual number of hours worked.
Under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the minimum wage is currently $7.25 per hour nationwide. 29 U.S.C. § 206(a)(1)(C). Non-exempt employees are entitled to compensation of at least “one and one-half times the regular rate” for time worked over forty hours in a week. Id. at § 207(a)(1). New Jersey has the same rule regarding overtime. As of January 1, 2019, the minimum wage in New Jersey is $8.85 per hour. N.J. Rev. Stat. § 34:11-56a4, N.J.A.C. § 12:56-3.1.
Employers commonly find themselves in violation of minimum wage and/or overtime laws when they require employees to perform job-related duties before they clock in, or after they clock out. For example, an employer might require workers to change into and out of uniform while they are not “on the clock.” The employees do not get paid for the time spent performing those tasks, which are considered to be a requirement of their job.
If a person’s timesheet indicates that they worked thirty hours in a five-day week at minimum wage, they have not been paid minimum wage if they also spent an extra hour each day on unpaid tasks required by their employer. Thirty hours at the federal minimum wage is $217.50. The employees described here, however, actually worked thirty-five hours. Their hourly compensation is actually $6.21, well below minimum wage. An employer would be liable under the FLSA for five additional hours of wages for every week this occurred.
Similarly, if a person’s timesheet shows exactly forty hours of work, but the employer required additional work-related tasks, that person is entitled to overtime. Using the same scenario as earlier, a person working forty hours in a five-day week at minimum wage would receive $290, before tax and other withholdings. If they worked an additional five hours, however, they should receive $54.40 in overtime, at the rate of $10.88 per hour.
The WHD case described earlier involved a company that paid its employees a flat salary, “without regard to the number of hours they actually worked in a workweek.” This led to minimum wage and overtime violations when the amount each employee was paid was divided by the number of hours worked. The company agreed to pay $175,442 in back wages, the same amount in liquidated damages, and $5,491 in civil penalties.
The Resnick Law Group’s team of experienced and skilled employment attorneys is available to assist you if you have a dispute with an employer in New Jersey or New York. Please contact us today at 973-781-1204, at 646-867-7997, or online to schedule a confidential consultation to discuss your case.