Recent Changes to New Jersey Anti-Wage Theft Law
New Jersey Acting Governor Sheila Oliver signed into law A-2903/S-1790 on August 6, 2019. This new law concerns "enforcement, penalties, and procedures for law regarding failure to pay wages."
Act's PenaltiesNow, New Jersey has one of the strongest protection laws for anti-wage theft in the country. One of the biggest impacts of the new Act results from the increased penalties for failure to pay wages. Failure to pay wages owed can include criminal punishments under the NJ Act.
This new Act makes amendments to the violations provision of the Wage Payment Law. The Act promotes that a violation against an employer occurs when the employer knowingly fails to pay the full amount of wages owed to an employee or the full amount required by law. However, the act also states that a violation occurs if the employer takes retaliatory action against an employee in certain circumstances. Certain circumstances can include: if the employee made a complaint to his employer, if the employee testified in a proceeding relating to wage-payment laws, or if the employee told any other employee of the employer rights under the State's laws. In these situations, the NJ employer cannot retaliate against an employee and cannot knowingly withhold the full amount of pay owed to the employee.
As violation instances increase, the fines and punishment increases as well. The first violation includes a charge of disorderly person offense and is punishable by a fine of $1,000-$2,000 or by imprisonment of 10-100 days, or by both. However, this increases with the second, third, and subsequent violations.
Crime of Pattern of Wage NonpaymentThe Act also amends the NJ Code of Criminal Justice. If an employer agreed to pay an employee wages and fails to pay within 30 days, it now constitutes a disorderly persons offense under NJ law. The Act also imposes a fine of $500, as well as a penalty equal to 20% of the wages owed for the first offense. Subsequent violations see an increase in fines and punishment. Further, any employers convicted of violating the law on two or more occasions are guilty of the crime of "pattern of wage nonpayment."
Anti-Retaliation Under the ActThe new Act also protects employees from retaliation from their employers. There is now an additional remedy for employees that suffer from discriminatory or adverse action from their employers. Employers are now required to offer reinstatement to employees who they have terminated as retaliation. Additionally, an employer who takes adverse action against an employee within 90 days of a filed complaint by the employee for the violation of wage payment, raises a presumption that the employer's action was retaliation against the employee. As a result, employers may only refute this presumption by showing clear and convincing evidence the action was taken for other reasons.
Other Changes to LawAlso, the NJ Act increases the Statute of Limitations for commencing an action to recover wages from an employer. This Act changes the Statute of Limitations by significantly extending the limit from 2 to 6 years.
The Act also expands "employer" under NJ law to include any successor entity or successor firm of the employer. This means that a successor entity may be liable for any wage violations of a prior entity.
Further, the Act now allows employees to recover liquidated damages equal to 200% of the unpaid wages they are owed.
Protecting New Jersey's EmployeesThis Act shows drastic changes for NJ law. The Act shows that NJ values its employees and wants to make sure employers pay employees their wages. If you have experienced wage theft, NJ laws protect you. We are here to help.