Has your employer failed to pay your earned wage or commission on a timely and regular basis? Has a former employer told you that it is not going to pay you your last paycheck or earned commissions because you quit your job or because they terminated your employment? Were you terminated from your employment in retaliation for not timely being paid your earned wages? If so, our New Jersey Wage Lawyers may be able to help you recover your unpaid earned money.
New Jersey has enacted the Wage Payment Law to assure that employees are timely paid their agreed upon wages for the work performed on behalf of their employers. The New Jersey Wage Payment Law is a humanitarian and remedial legislation that our courts have stated should be construed liberally in favor of the employee receiving their wages. In 2019, the Legislature passed much needed and overdue amendments to the New Jersey Wage Payment Law and now provide for stiff penalties to employers who violate the law.
The New Jersey Wage Payment Law requires that employers pay their employees their wages on regular paydays designated in advance. Wages are defined by law as "the direct monetary compensation for labor or services rendered by an employee, where the amount is determined on a time, task, piece or commission basis excluding any form of supplementary incentives and bonuses which are calculated independently of regular wages and paid in addition thereto." This definition entitles employees to all wages owed for performed, including wage and overtime
Under the New Jersey Wage Payment Law, employers:
- must generally pay an employee at least twice during a calendar month;
- may deposit the wages due to an employee directly into an account maintained by the employee in a financial institution;
- must pay any wages due to an employee who has resigned or been discharged or laid off no later than the regular payday for the pay period during which the separation occurred;
- must notify employees of any changes in the pay rates prior to the time of such changes;
- must pay to a certain person or persons all wages due a deceased employee;
- are prohibited from entering into any agreement with an employee for the payment of wages except as provided by the statute other than to agree to pay wages more frequently than prescribed by the Wage Payment Law or to pay wages in advance;
- employers must pay all wages conceded to be due at the time payment is expected in the event of a dispute regarding the amount of wages due;
- must provide employees advance notice who are paid on a commission basis of any change in the method by which the commission is calculated; and
- are prohibited from retaliating against an employee that has made a complaint concerning unpaid wages, or an employee that has initiated an action or is about to initiate an action against the employer regarding unpaid wages.
The 2019 amendments to the New Jersey wage law have greatly enhanced the legal protections provided to employees under the law. Prior to the amendments, New Jersey courts have made clear that an employee can maintain a private cause of action for an alleged violation of the New Jersey Wage Payment Law. The 2019 amendments make clear that the statute of limitations for a wage claim is 6 years. This means that an employee has up to 6 years to pursue claims under the wage theft law.
The 2019 amendments have significantly increased the penalties to offending employers by now allowing employees to seek the amount of unpaid wage plus liquidated damages in an amount up to two (2) times the amount of the unpaid wage. A first time offender employer can avoid paying liquidated damages if it can demonstrate that its violations of the wage law were inadvertent, made in good faith and that it had reasonable grounds for believing that the act or omission was not a violation of the law. The first time offending employer must also admit to the violation of the wage theft law and pay the full amount owed within 30 days of notice of the violation in order to avoid paying the liquidated damages available under the law. Employees can also now recover court costs and attorney's fees incurred in pursuing his or her wage theft claims under the state wage law, which was not the case prior the amendments.
An employee can proceed with their wage claim in a private lawsuit or by filing a claim with the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development's Wage Collection Section. The 2019 amendments increased the subject matter jurisdiction and jurisdictional limits for the Wage Collection Section in pursuing claims on behalf of employees. Administrative penalties have been increased from $500 to $1,000 for a first violation and imprisonment of 10 days to 90 days. Fines for a second violation of the wage theft law have been increased from $1,000 to $2,000 and increased the possible imprisonment for to up to 100 days for repeat offenders. Employers who violate the wage theft law can be subjected to both the monetary fines and imprisonment for the same violations.
The New Jersey Wage Payment law maintains some of the most stringent anti-retaliation provisions of any federal or other state wage law. For example, there is a rebuttable presumption of retaliation if an offending employer takes adverse employment action within 90 days of the employee complaining or objecting to the wage violation. An employer can only overcome the presumption of retaliation by clear and convincing evidence that the adverse employment action was taken for legitimate, non-retaliatory reasons.
Employees are entitled to notice of his or her rights under the New Jersey wage law at the time they are hired. The notice must explain the rights under the New Jersey Wage and Hour laws and how to file a claim. The New Jersey Department of Labor has a model notice for this requirement of the law.
The 2019 amendments spell out several factors in determining a rebuttable presumption of successor liability of an employer. Under the wage law, an employer will be considered a successor entity of the prior employer if the predecessor employer and the successor employer share at least two of the following: (1) perform similar work within the same geographical area; (2) occupy the same premises; (3) have the same telephone number or fax; (4) have the same email address or internet website; (5) employ substantially the same work force or administrative employees; (6) use the same tools, facilities or equipment; (7) employ or engage the services of any person involved in the direction or control of the prior employer; and (8) list substantially the same work experience.
The 2019 amendments strengthen the recording keeping requirements by providing for a rebuttable presumption that the employee worked for the period of time and for the amount of wages in the wage claim in situations where the employer fails to the required employment records concerning wages under the law.
New Jersey rightfully recognizes the importance of employees being timely and fully paid their earned wages. If you believe you have not been paid your earned wages or commissions, please call our office
to speak to one of our New Jersey Employment Lawyers
about your claim of unpaid wages.