New Jersey Passes Tough Wage Theft Act

It’s Friday, and in many workplaces, that can only mean one thing: it’s pay day.  Employers in New Jersey, however, should take extra precautions to ensure that their employees are paid correctly.  New Jersey’s sweeping Wage Theft Act, which was passed earlier this month, poses harsh penalties for Garden State employers who violate the state’s Wage Payment Law (“WPL”) and Wage and Hour Law (“WHL”).  Here are some of the highlights of the Wage Theft Act:

  • The statute of limitations for unpaid wages, minimum wage, and overtime claims under the WHL has been increased from 2 years to 6 years. 

  • An employer that has been found to have violated the WHL or the WPL can be liable for the unpaid wages plus attorney’s fees, costs, and liquidated damages of up to 200% of the unpaid wages.

  • Employers can also be subjected to possible jail time resulting from violations of the WHL or WPL.  First-time violations may result in a fine of $500.00 to $1,000.00 and/or imprisonment of 10 to 90 days.  Second-time violations may result in a fine of $1,000.00 to $2,000.00 and/or imprisonment of 10 to 100 days.

  • There is now a rebuttable presumption that an adverse employment action taken against an employee within 90 days of him/her filing an internal or external wage complaint was unlawfully retaliatory.  This presumption can only be rebutted by “clear and convincing evidence” that the action was for a permissible reason.

  • There is also a rebuttable presumption that, in circumstances where employers fail to maintain wage and hour records required by law, the employee is entitled to the amount of wages that he/she claims.

In light of the Wage Theft Act’s significant changes, New Jersey employers would be wise to revisit their pay policies and procedures so as to avoid the new and sizable civil and criminal penalties.  To learn more about this and other timely employment law developments, please register for Hoffman Hlavac & Easterly’s complimentary 2018–2019 Labor and Employment Law Update Seminar, which will be held on September 18, 2019.  You can register online at: https://www.hhe-law.com/seminars.  Space is limited and filling fast.  We look forward to seeing you there!