As regular readers of our Morristown, New Jersey, Employment Law Blog know, there have been a number of significant changes to state laws and regulations in recent months. That trend continued a few days ago when Acting Governor Sheila Oliver signed into law A-2903/S-1790, which makes important changes to the Wage Payment Law, the Equal Pay Act and the New Jersey State Wage and Hour Law.
With the amended law in place, an employer who owes unpaid wages (or wages lost because of retaliation) could face increasingly stiff penalties. The employee can get not only those wages, but also damages equal to 200 percent of the unpaid amount – plus attorney’s fees and reasonable costs.
Some might say that the saving grace in the law is that if the employer can avoid paying the 200 percent penalty for a first offense if it can be shown that the wages were withheld in good faith rather than a deliberate violation of law and if the employer concedes the violation and pays the wages owed within 30 days.
The new law also triples the statute of limitations, giving employees a six-year window for a wage recovery lawsuit rather than the previous two years.
In addition, the law expanded the definition of “employer,” so that new owners of a business can be held liable for wage violations committed by previous owners of the business.
A provision of the amended Wage Payment Law states that an employer can be found in violation if it knowingly does not fully pay the agreed-upon wages. Another possible violation is if the employer retaliates because the worker complained about unpaid wages to state officials, the employer or a lawyer.
There’s much for businesses to think about in these changes. An experienced, knowledgeable Morristown employment law attorney can help explain how the changes might affect your firm.