New Jersey employees are entitled by law to receive overtime compensation, at a rate equal to one-and-a-half times their usual wage, for time worked in excess of forty hours in a week. Although state and federal law identify various groups of employees who are exempt from this requirement, nonexempt employees may recover damages in court if their employer fails to pay them at the overtime rate. Employers are also prohibited under federal law from retaliating against employees who report alleged wage violations. A lawsuit filed last month in a New Jersey federal court alleges that a company failed to pay overtime to the plaintiff, and then fired him in retaliation for reporting the matter to the human resources department. Buchspies v. Pfizer, Inc., No. 2:18-cv-16083, complaint (D.N.J., Nov. 13, 2018). The complaint asserts causes of action under both federal and state law.
The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires employers to pay nonexempt workers “at a rate not less than one and one-half times the regular rate” for any amount of time over forty hours in a week. 29 U.S.C. § 207(a)(1). The statute provides a lengthy list of exempt employees, such as “bona fide executive, administrative, or professional” employees, certain agricultural workers, employees of small newspapers, certain individuals informally employed as domestic caregivers, and border patrol agents. Id. at §§ 213(a)(1), (6), (8), (15), (18). New Jersey wage law requires overtime pay at the same rate. It includes an exemption for “executive, administrative, or professional” employees, as well as other groups. N.J. Rev. Stat. § 34:11-56a4. The FLSA also states that employers may not take adverse action against employees who make a complaint alleging violations of the statute. 29 U.S.C. § 215(a)(3).
The plaintiff in Buchspies, according to his complaint, began working for the defendant in 2013 “as a chemical analyst in a pharmaceutical laboratory.” Buchspies, complaint at 2. He claims that the defendant’s payroll system identified him as an “overtime eligible employee.” Id. He states that he received a base pay rate of $34.00 per hour. Although he allegedly worked more than forty hours during some weeks, he claims that the defendant only paid him at the rate of $34/hour, instead of the $51/hour that would be payable for overtime hours under the FLSA and state law. The plaintiff states that he complained about the overtime issue to human resources in May 2018, and alleges that he was fired two weeks later, with no reason given.
The lawsuit asserts three causes of action. First, it claims failure to pay overtime in violation of the FLSA, alleging that the plaintiff is a nonexempt employee entitled to overtime at time-and-a-half. Next, it alleges violations of New Jersey wage laws, also for failure to pay overtime. Finally, the plaintiff claims that his complaint to human resources about the overtime issue was “protected activity” under the FLSA, id. at 5, and that his subsequent termination constitutes unlawful retaliation. The complaint seeks compensatory damages, liquidated damages, punitive damages, court costs and attorney’s fees, and other relief.
If you need assistance in a dispute with an employer in New Jersey or New York, please contact the Resnick Law Group’s employment attorneys today at 973-781-1204, at 646-867-7997, or through our website to schedule a confidential consultation.
More Blog Posts:
How the “Gig Economy” Could Impact Wage and Hour Law Claims in New Jersey, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, October 15, 2018
FLSA Collective Action Alleges Failure to Pay Overtime by New Jersey Hospital, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, August 10, 2018
New Jersey Lawsuits Allege Failure to Pay Overtime Wages, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, December 8, 2017