Workers are entitled to payment for all hours that they perform work for their employers under federal and New Jersey employment laws. Employers must pay non-exempt employees at a rate equal to or greater than the minimum wage set by state law. They must also pay all wages owed to their employees at the end of each pay period. Employers who fail to meet these duties could be liable to their employees for damages. A worker at a New Jersey theme park recently filed a class action in federal court alleging state wage law violations. She claims that the defendant required employees to perform unpaid work both before clocking in and after clocking out.
The lawsuit cites three provisions of New Jersey law. First, the New Jersey Wage and Hour Law (NJWHL) requires employers to pay at least minimum wage to their non-exempt employees. In 2022, the statewide minimum wage is $13 per hour. It will increase to $14.13 per hour on January 1, 2023. It will continue to increase annually until it reaches $15 per hour at the beginning of 2026.
New Jersey employment regulations require employers to pay their workers “for all hours worked.” This generally includes all activities required by employers, particularly those on the employer’s premises. The plaintiff cites two decisions from the U.S. Supreme Court addressing what sorts of activities count as compensable work:
– In Tennessee Coal, Iron & R. Co. v. Muscoda Local No. 123 (1944), the court held that iron ore miners were entitled to pay for the time they spent traveling to and from the “working face” of the mine. The trip often involved a precarious journey of 3,000 to 12,000 feet through dark underground tunnels.
– The plaintiffs in Anderson v. Mt Clemens Pottery Co. (1946) had to walk across an eight-acre facility to get from the time clocks to their work areas. This could take up to an hour each day. The court held that this time was compensable.
Finally, the New Jersey Wage Payment Law (NJWPL) requires employers to “pay the full amount of wages due” to each employee “on regular paydays designated in advance.” Employers may not withhold any amounts from employee paychecks except as allowed by law, such as payroll taxes and health insurance premiums.
The lead plaintiff in the New Jersey lawsuit worked for the defendant at its theme park in Jackson, New Jersey. She alleges that, since 2016, the defendant has required hourly employees to go through security screenings every day when they arrive at work. They must then cross the 510-acre park to get to the time clocks, a distance the plaintiff estimates to be about five hundred yards. At the end of the day, employees must clock out, walk across the park, and go through further security screenings. These procedures allegedly take forty minutes or longer each day and are not considered paid time by the defendant.
Since the class includes employees from multiple states and the defendant is based in Texas, federal courts have jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act. The lawsuit alleges violations of the NJWHL and the NJWPL. It seeks damages in excess of $5 million.
If you believe that your employer is violating wage and hour laws, you need an experienced advocate who can help you assert your rights. The employment attorneys at the Resnick Law Group represent workers in New Jersey and New York in a wide range of legal claims. Please contact us online, at 973-781-1204, or at 646-867-7997 today to schedule a confidential consultation to see how we can assist you.