NEW JERSEY AMENDS WAGE PAYMENT LAW TO PROVIDE GREATER PROTECTIONS TO WORKERS

To ensure all New Jersey employees are fairly and timely compensated for their work, Acting New Jersey Governor Sheila Oliver signed S1790 into law this week which amends the existing New Jersey Wage Payment Law (NJWPL) to provide significantly more protections for employees who have been victims of wage theft. The new law makes it a disorderly persons offense for employers to fail to pay wages when due as required by law, or fail to pay compensation or benefits within 30 days when due.

An employer found to have violated the NJWPL as amended will now be required to pay the victimized employee his or her wages owed in addition to liquidated damages equal to 200% of the wages owed as well as reasonable costs of the action to the employee. The employer will also be fined $500 plus a penalty equal to 20% of any wages owed for the first offense, followed by $1,000 plus a penalty equal to 20% of any wages owed for each subsequent offense. Supporters of the new legislation hope that its stricter penalties for violations will hold employers accountable for unpaid wages more than the existing wage and hour legislation does. “Above all else, this law is about workers’ rights. Employers in New Jersey should be held to a high standard to treat their employees with the decency and legality they deserve. No one should be withheld one penny of the wages they are legally entitled to,” said Assemblyman Wayne DeAngelo, who sponsored the bill before it was signed into effect.

S1790 also prohibits employers’ retaliatory conduct by increasing the penalties against employers who retaliate against employees for filing wage complaints. Any such employer who does so commits a disorderly persons offense and upon conviction, is required to pay a fine between $100 to $1000. The employer is also liable to the employee for all wages lost as a result of the retaliation as well as damages equal to 200% of the wages lost as a result of the retaliation, and reasonable costs of the action to the employee. If the employee was retaliatorily discharged, the employer is required to offer reinstatement, unless the reinstatement is prohibited by law.

One of the most significant and beneficial changes to the NJWPL for employees is the extension of the existing statute of limitations for filing a wage theft claim from two years to six years, starting to run from the time that an action is commenced. Extending the statute of limitations is a major step forward in protecting the rights of employees who are fighting to attain the waged owed to them by their employers. This allows for the NJWPL to look back on a larger span of time and thus for more injured employees to have the opportunity to bring wage theft claims.

The amendments to the NJWPL is part of a package of progressive new laws recently signed into law to further the goal of ensuring New Jersey workers are paid a reasonable and timely wage. In characterizing wage theft as immoral and intolerable, sponsoring Senator Loretta Weinberg commented, “In July, we took our first step to a $15 minimum wage but if we didn’t take care to ensure New Jersey employees receive their rightful wage, we could fail many of those we are trying to lift up. Giving employees greater power and protections is an important step in the path towards everyone earning a living wage.” The bill was also sponsored by Senator Linda R. Greenstein along with Annette Quijano, Pamela R. Lampitt in the Assembly.

At Mashel Law LLC, we are well experienced in handling New Jersey Wage Payment Law claims. If you believe you are owed unpaid wages, call the attorneys at Mashel Law (732) 536-6161 or fill out the contact form on this page for immediate help in assessing whether you have an actionable claim against your employer. At Mashel Law, LLC, located in Marlboro, New Jersey, we are dedicated to protecting the rights of employees.