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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.
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Since early 2021, New Jersey employment law has protected workers in this state from discrimination or other adverse employment actions based on their use of cannabis outside work, as well as their refusal to engage in cannabis use. Employers may still prohibit the use of cannabis in the workplace, and they may take reasonable measures to prevent employees from working while under the influence of cannabis. State law limits the use of drug testing by employers, but the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission (NJCRC) still has not issued final guidelines on this part of the law. It issued extensive guidelines in September 2021 that did not address employment issues. One year later, the NJCRC issued interim guidance on employment, which offers some direction on workplace drug testing.

The New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act (CREAMMA) became law in February 2021. Section 48 of CREAMMA, codified as § 24:6I-52 of the New Jersey Revised Statutes, addresses cannabis in the workplace. It prohibits discrimination based on an employee’s or job applicant’s cannabis use, or lack thereof. If an employee tests positive for cannabinoid metabolites because of cannabis use that is legal under CREAMMA, their employer may not take adverse action against them solely on that basis.

The statute allows employers “to maintain a drug- and alcohol-free workplace,” such as by not allowing employees to be under the influence of cannabis during work hours. Employers may require their employees to submit to drug tests under certain circumstances:

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New Jersey employment laws protect workers against multiple kinds of abuses by employers, such as failure to pay minimum wage or overtime, requiring unpaid work time, and unlawful payroll deductions. Both state and federal statutes address wage and hour violations, but these protections only apply to “employees.” The legal definition of this term rarely includes temporary workers. A bill pending in the New Jersey Senate would create a “​​Temporary Workers Bill of Rights” that extends many of the legal protections enjoyed by employees to people who work for staffing agencies. The bill has faced multiple hurdles since its introduction in early 2022. While its future is uncertain, lawmakers in support of the bill say it still has a chance at passage.

The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the New Jersey Wage and Hour Law (WHL) set a minimum wage for non-exempt employees. They also require employers to pay non-exempt employees time-and-a-half for any time they work over forty hours in a week. Neither statute has a detailed definition of “employee.” They both define the term as “any individual employed by an employer.” The protections offered by these laws often do not extend to individuals who work for staffing agencies contracted by other companies to provide temporary workers.

In the most recent version of the pending bill, A1474, the Legislature states several findings related to temporary workers and their working conditions. “[T]emporary help service firms, sometimes referred to as temp agencies or staffing agencies,” employ about 127,000 people in New Jersey. The state has licensed around one hundred temp agencies, while an unknown number of unlicensed agencies “operate outside the purview of law enforcement.” Temporary jobs are heavily concentrated in “service occupations,…production, transportation, and material moving occupations and manufacturing industries.”
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Age discrimination can affect almost any New Jersey employee, although it occurs most often among older workers who find themselves passed over in favor of younger individuals. Both federal and state employment laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of age to varying degrees. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed suit earlier this year against a New Jersey employer on behalf of a 62-year-old woman. The complainant alleges that her employer passed her over for a lateral transfer in violation of the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). The lawsuit, which is pending in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, seeks back pay and other damages for the complainant, as well as policy changes and other injunctive relief. If you feel you are the victim of age discrimination in the workplace, please reach out to a New Jersey employment lawyer to discuss your options.

The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) provides extensive protection against workplace age discrimination. It applies to almost all employers, regardless of the number of employees. It does not limit its protections to workers of any particular age, as long as they are adults. A qualified 20-year-old who lost out on an opportunity because of the perception of being “too young” could assert a claim under the NJLAD, as could a qualified 70-year-old who was passed over for being “too old.”

Federal law’s protections against age discrimination are not as broad as those provided by the NJLAD. The ADEA applies to employers with at least twenty employees and workers who are forty years old or older. Its protections are essentially limited to discrimination based on someone being perceived as “too old.” The 70-year-old described above could assert a claim under the ADEA if they work for a large enough employer. The 20-year-old could not, though.
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The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) protects the rights of employees to engage in activities related to organizing for the purposes of collective bargaining with their employers. It prohibits employers from interfering with or restraining these activities. Once employees have formed or joined a union and designated it as their authorized representative, the NLRA requires their employer to negotiate with the union regarding issues affecting member employees. An employer violates the NLRA if it deals with represented employees directly rather than through the union. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) recently affirmed a ruling finding that an employer violated the NLRA by communicating with employees without notifying the union. If your employer is in discussions with individual employees rather than the union that represents them, reach out to a New Jersey employment lawyer to discuss the situation.

When a majority of employees within a particular unit select a representative for the purposes of collective bargaining, § 9(a) of the NLRA states that this will be those employees’ exclusive representative. A “unit,” according to § 9(b), could consist of all employees in a company, in a division of a company, at a particular plant or facility, or in other groups or divisions. Section 8(a)(5) of the NLRA states that an employer engages in an “unfair labor practice” when it refuses to negotiate with employees’ exclusive representative, as designated under § 9(a).

The NLRB’s interpretation of §8(a)(5) draws on a decision by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals from 1969, in which the court deal with a situation where an employer attempted “​​to deal with the Union through the employees, rather than with the employees through the Union.” The NLRB has developed a three-part test for identifying situations in which an employer dealt directly with employees in violation of § 8(a)(5):
1. The employer “communicate[d] directly with union-represented employees.”
2. The purpose of the communication was to “establish[] or chang[e] wages, hours, and terms and conditions of employment,” or to “undercut[] the union’s role in bargaining.”
3. The employer excluded the union from the communication.
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Government regulators enforce a wide variety of laws, from statutes prohibiting employment discrimination to those that deal with securities fraud and other fraudulent activities. They rely on information provided by business insiders, but many employees might hesitate to report potential legal violations by their employers for fear of losing their jobs. New Jersey’s Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA) is one of many whistleblower protection statutes that prohibit retaliation by employers against employees who report their concerns. Proving that an adverse employment action constituted unlawful retaliation can be tricky, and different statutes have different requirements. A federal appellate court recently ruled on a whistleblower claim under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX). It found that this statute has a more difficult standard of proof than CEPA. If you fear retaliation or discrimination for reporting legal violations in the workplace, reach out to a New Jersey employment lawyer to review your options.

CEPA provides rather broad protection for whistleblowers in New Jersey. It applies to employees who:
– Report alleged violations of a statute or regulation, either internally or to a regulatory agency;
– Provide information or testimony as part of an ongoing investigation into a possible violation of the law; or
– Object to or decline to participate in an activity that they reasonably believe would violate the law or go against public policy.
The statute’s definition of a “retaliatory action” includes termination, suspension, demotion, and other adverse actions.

An employee claiming unlawful retaliation under CEPA must show a causal connection between their whistleblowing activities and the adverse action against them. New Jersey court rulings have held that a plaintiff can establish this element by producing enough evidence to allow a judge or jury “to infer that discrimination was more likely than not a motivating or determinative cause” of the employer’s adverse action. The recent appellate court decision regarding SOX found a much stricter burden of proof for plaintiffs.
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The COVID-19 pandemic has presented numerous employment law challenges. Employers, employees, government regulators, and others have had to balance financial needs, public health, and workplace safety. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued various guidelines related to testing and isolation. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has addressed questions about what employers may require of their employees under laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). These agencies have modified their guidelines as our knowledge about the coronavirus has increased, and as pandemic conditions have changed. Recent updates present relaxed standards for workplace safety, mandatory COVID testing, and other matters. New Jersey employees should be aware of their rights under both federal and state laws. If you have questions about COVID-19 guidelines at your workplace, please contact a New Jersey employment lawyer to discuss.

EEOC guidance on testing

On July 12, 2022, the EEOC updated the guidance document entitled “​​What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws.” One of the main issues the document addresses is whether the ADA allows employers to require COVID-19 testing among employees. Generally speaking, the ADA requires any medical examinations or inquiries by employers to be “job-related and consistent with business necessity.” A medical condition that presents a “direct threat” to others in the workplace usually meets this requirement.

In the early days of the pandemic — particularly before a vaccine became widely available — the EEOC concluded that mandatory testing was acceptable because of the broad risk posed by exposure to the coronavirus. Much has changed since 2020. The agency has modified its interpretation of “business necessity” in light of improved public health measures, while also considering the ongoing mutation of the virus.
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Federal labor law protects workers’ rights to organize themselves in order to engage in collective bargaining and advocate for their interests. The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) identifies these rights and prohibits employers from interfering with employees who are engaged in protected activities. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) adjudicates allegations of unlawful actions by employers and labor unions. Recently, a panel of the NLRB in New Jersey ruled in a case that alleged numerous NLRA violations by an employer, including refusing to negotiate with its employees’ authorized representative and firing multiple employees because of their union activities. An administrative law judge (ALJ) found that the employer violated multiple provisions of the NLRA. The NLRB panel affirmed the ruling, with some modifications. If you are involved in a labor dispute, contact a New Jersey employment lawyer today to learn more about your rights.

Workers have the right to “self-organization” under the NLRA. They may engage in activities directed towards organizing themselves to join or form a union, along with other activities related to “collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.” Section 8(a) of the statute identifies prohibited “unfair labor practices by employer[s].” These include interfering with protected activities by employees, discriminating on the basis of union membership or organizing activities, and refusing to participate in collective bargaining with authorized union representatives. Workers may report alleged violations to the NLRB.

The employer in the recent NLRB decision operates a hotel in North Bergen, New Jersey. According to the ALJ’s opinion, it entered into a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with its employees’ union in 2011. The CBA expired in 2015, but the employer and the union had not been able to agree to a new CBA. As of the date of the ALJ’s ruling in late 2021, the 2011 CBA remained the most recent agreement between the two.
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New Jersey’s employment laws offer a wide range of protections for workers, including the right to paid or unpaid family leave in certain circumstances, and the right to recover remedies from employers who engage in unlawful discrimination or retaliation. In order for workers to benefit from these laws, they need to know about their rights. New Jersey employment attorneys can provide employees with everything they need to know about their legal rights, but the state wants people to know before anyone feels the need to contact a lawyer. The New Jersey Division on Civil Rights (DCR) recently adopted new regulations that require employers to provide their employees with a poster advising them of their rights under two state statutes, the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) and the Family Leave Act (FLA).

The NJLAD is one of the most comprehensive anti-discrimination statutes in the country. It prohibits discrimination in hiring, firing, promotions, job duties, benefits, and other features of employment on the basis of a long list of factors. Protected categories include race, religion, age, disability, national origin, sex, sexual or affectional orientation, gender identity or gender expression, pregnancy, breastfeeding, and military service, to name a few. The statute requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for certain conditions, including many types of disability, pregnancy, and breastfeeding. It also prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who object to allegedly unlawful practices or report their concerns.

New Jersey is also one of only a few U.S. states to provide paid family leave for some employees. The FLA provides up to twelve weeks of protected leave during a 24-month period to care for a sick or injured family member or to bond with a newborn or newly-adopted child. The leave may be unpaid or partially paid. The employee may take twelve weeks of leave all at once, or they may break it up over time. Employees may be eligible for leave if their employers employ at least thirty people worldwide. An employee must have worked for the employer for at least a year, and they must have worked at least 1,000 hours in the preceding twelve-month period.
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Both federal and state employment laws in New Jersey protect employees’ rights to a minimum wage and overtime pay. While the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not set the minimum wage as high as New Jersey law, it provides workers with useful enforcement tools. A worker can bring a “collective action” on behalf of other workers with similar federal wage and hour claims. An FLSA collective action is similar to a federal class action, with a few important differences. A recent decision by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals limits the use of FLSA collective actions when the plaintiffs come from more than one state. The ruling should not affect collective actions in which all members of the group are from New Jersey. If you have concerns about possible wage or overtime pay violations, make an appointment with a New Jersey employment lawyer today.

The most recent increase in the federal minimum wage occurred over twelve years ago. It reached its current level of $7.25 per hour on July 24, 2010. The rules for overtime compensation, which require payment at time-and-a-half for time worked over forty hours in a week, have remained the same for decades. These rules only apply to employees who are not exempt under the FLSA. They also do not apply to independent contractors. A wrongful claim that an employee is either exempt or an independent contractor is a violation of the FLSA known as employee misclassification.

The FLSA allows employees to file lawsuits against their employers for alleged wage and hour violations. Notably, § 16(b) of the FLSA allows employees to file suit on their own behalf and on behalf of “​​other employees similarly situated.” The requirements for a collective action under the FLSA are similar to those for a class action under Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. One important difference is that, while many class actions automatically include people who meet the description of class members and receive notice of the suit, the FLSA requires all plaintiffs to consent to participation in a collective action in writing. To put that another way, people may have to “opt out” of a class action and “opt in” to a collective action.
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