Today, Acting Governor Sheila Oliver signed S-1790 into law, which enhances enforcement of New Jersey’s wage and hour laws by providing additional fines and penalties for employers who fail to properly pay wages, benefits, or overtime to employees as required by the State’s already existing wage and hour laws. The law is being touted as one of the country’s strongest, which will make New Jersey a national leader in protecting workers from abusive and illegal practices by their employers.

Employers who violate the law’s protections are subject to back wages and liquidated damages equal to 200% of the wages owed, which is double the amount of liquidated damages currently allowed under both the state and federal wage and hour laws. Further, if an employee is improperly terminated in retaliation for raising a dispute about his or her wages or filing a wage claim, the employee is entitled to reinstatement. Significantly, the law provides that a presumption of retaliatory motive is created if an employer takes adverse action against an employee within (90) ninety days of the employee filing a wage complaint with the New Jersey Labor Commissioner, or of a claim or action being brought in Court by or on behalf of the employee. The law also creates an inference that an employer violated the law if the employer fails to present employee records in response to a wage claim.

The law extends the statute of limitations on all wage related claims to six (6) years and grants the Labor Commissioner enhanced audit powers. The law requires the Labor Commissioner to initiate a wage claim on behalf of an employee if the audit reveals that the employer failed to pay wages and/or benefits as required by the law. The law also provides for enhanced criminal sanctions against employers for failing to pay wages properly or in a timely manner, including the creation of a new crime of “pattern of wage nonpayment,” which is a crime of the third degree, and which applies if the employer has, on two or more prior occasions, been convicted of a violation of the law.

The law applies to all New Jersey employers with the exception of any employer in the construction industry whose employees are working under the provisions of a collective bargaining agreement. The law provides that officers of a corporation and any agents having the management of the corporation are deemed to be “employers”. The law takes effect immediately.

All New Jersey employers should take measures to assure that their wage and hour policies and practices comport with the new law. If you are concerned that your wage and hour policies and practices may subject you to civil or criminal liability, we can ease your mind with a thorough analysis and assessment of your policies and practices.