New Jersey Signs Wage Theft Protection Law, One of the Country’s Strongest

Sep 09, 2019
| David Pearson
New Jersey Signs Wage Theft Protection Law

Ever since Phil Murphy became the Governor of New Jersey, he and his administration have passed numerous employment-related laws that have greatly impacted employees and employers.

From a $15 minimum wage to this summer’s salary history ban, business owners and leaders in the state have had to keep up with all the latest news in order to prepare for upcoming laws and ensure compliance is maintained.

In early August, New Jersey lawmakers announced another new law aimed at helping employees in the state which could have significant impacts for employers who fail to comply with its provisions.
 

New Jersey Wage Theft Act

On August 6th, New Jersey Acting Governor Sheila Oliver officially signed wage theft protection legislation, which became effective immediately. She also signed the state’s salary history ban law while Phil Murphy was on vacation.

Many saw the bill as a follow-up to the minimum wage law that was passed earlier this year, as it significantly stiffens the penalties employers and individuals could face from failing to pay workers their full wages.

The new law protects all workers in the state and holds employers accountable for all unpaid salary, benefits, and overtime. Examples of benefits include health benefits, pensions, medical treatment, workers’ compensation, and more.

Additionally, the bill extends the statute of limitations for an employee to take action from 2 years to 6 years.
 

Employer Penalties for Withholding Wages

For employers, the biggest potential impacts the wage theft protection law has are the increased fines and penalties.

Employees will be able to recover any wages owed plus liquidated damages equal to 200% of wages owed, as well as attorney’s fees and other related costs.

Additionally, employers who fail to pay all wages to an employee or employees can be fined between $500 and $1,000 for a first violation, along with the possibility of 10 to 90 days in jail.

If a second offense occurs, employers can be fined $1,000 to $2,000 and/or imprisonment of 10 to 100 days. Employers who violate the law three or more times will be found to have a “pattern of wage nonpayment” and can face even stiffer fines and/or prison sentences.

These include:
 
  • Fines of $2,000 to $10,000
  • Imprisonment of up to 18 months
  • Or both a fine and imprisonment

For employers, it’s also important to know that the law expands the definition of employer to include all successor entities or successor firms, which would make these entities liable for any wage violations of the predecessor firm.

The law also includes language on retaliating against an employee who files a wage complaint. Under the Wage Theft Act, retaliation will be presumed to have occurred if adverse action is taken against an employee within 90 days of filing a wage compliant. Click here to see the fines and penalties that can come if an employer is round to have retaliated against on employee.
 

New Jersey Business Owners Must Keep Up with Employment Law News

New Jersey lawmakers continue to sign and enact new employment legislation, and it appears this trend will continue in the months ahead.

Employers and business leaders in the state will need to stay ahead of all news surrounding potential new laws and should reach out to HR compliance experts if they need help preparing for new legislation.

Doing so can help maintain compliance and avoid costly fines and penalties.

One area of HR is becoming increasingly more difficult for small employers to properly handle — maintaining compliance with employment laws. Download our eBook, Guide to Employment Law: Topics Employers Must Know to Stay Compliant, to learn more about some of the biggest trends and topics in employment law.
 
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