Good news for New Jersey workers! New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy enacted amendments to the New Jersey Wage and Hour Law, effective August 6, 2019, and New Jersey Family Leave Insurance (FLI), effective July 1, 2020, and the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development recently offered extended benefits to unemployed workers. Among other changes to the Wage and Hour Law, the recent legislation increases the statute of limitations from two years to six years and provides for liquidated damages up to 200% of the amount of wages lost. The major amendments to New Jersey FLI are a doubling of the leave period from 6 weeks to 12 weeks and an increase in the benefit rate from 66 2/3% to 85% of a claimant’s average weekly wage. Unemployment benefits have been extended from 26 to 46 weeks.
New Jersey Wage and Hour Law
- Statute of Limitations: Employees now have six years, instead of two years, to bring a claim for unpaid minimum wages or unpaid overtime compensation. N.J.S.A., 34:11-56a25.1.
- Liquidated Damages:
- An employer who discharges or discriminates against an employee because the employee has made a complaint or filed an action for unpaid wages, is required to pay all lost wages and an additional amount (liquidated damages) of up to 200% of the wages lost. N.J.S.A, 34:11-56a24(a).
- If an employee is paid less than the minimum fair wage to which the employee is entitled or is retaliated against in violation of N.J.S.A, 34:11-56a24, he may recover the full wages, plus a maximum of 200% of the amount of wages lost. N.J.S.A, 34:11-56a25.
- Disorderly persons offense: It is now a disorderly person’s offense for an employer to retaliate against an employee because the employee has informed a co-worker about rights under State laws regarding wages and hours of work. It remains a disorderly person’s offense for an employer to retaliate against an employee who has made a complaint, instituted a proceeding, or testified in any proceeding.
- Presumption: The Wage and Hour Law now provides that taking an adverse action against an employee (such as firing or demotion) within 90 days of the employee filing a complaint with the Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development or a lawsuit for violation of the Wage and Hour Law, creates a presumption that the employer’s action was taken in retaliation against the employee. The presumption may be rebutted only by clear and convincing evidence that the action was taken for permissible reasons.
- Fines and Imprisonment: Any employer who retaliates against any employee for exercising his rights under the Wage and Hour Law shall, upon conviction for a first violation, be punished by a $500-$1,000 fine or imprisonment for 10-90 days, or both the fine and imprisonment. Upon conviction for a second or subsequent violation, the employer shall be punished by a $1,000-$2,000 fine or imprisonment for 10-100 days, or both the fine and imprisonment.
New Jersey Family Leave Insurance
For leave beginning on or after July 1, 2020, the leave period doubles from 6 weeks to 12 weeks and intermittent leave increases from 42 days to 56 days. N.J.S.A, 43:21-39(b)(2).
The maximum weekly benefit rate is 85% of claimant’s average weekly wage, up to a maximum of $881 per week. N.J.S.A, 43:21-40; N.J.A.C., 12:15-1.2(c).
Employers are prohibited from discharging, harassing, discriminating, or retaliating against employees for using or requesting FLI benefits. N.J.S.A, 43:21-55.2(a).
New Jersey Unemployment benefits
As of July 1, 2020, New Jersey workers who exhausted their state and federal unemployment benefits are now eligible for weeks of extended unemployment benefits. The extension kicks in after claimants exhaust up to 26 weeks of state unemployment plus 13 weeks of federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC). The additional 20 weeks of benefits brings to 59 the maximum number of weeks an eligible claimant may receive in benefits at this time. Claimants will be automatically enrolled into extended benefits as their federal extension ends. They do not need to contact an agent or reapply.
At Mashel Law LLC, we are well experienced in handling New Jersey Wage and Hour Claims, federal and New Jersey Family Leave Claims and appeals of denials of unemployment benefits. Call the attorneys at Mashel Law at (732) 536-6161 or fill out the contact form on this page for immediate help. At Mashel Law, LLC, located in Marlboro, New Jersey, we are dedicated to protecting the rights of employees.