New Jersey Continues Expanding Employment Protections for Workers

The state of New Jersey has long been known for having employee-friendly laws and protections that ensure that workers have a more level playing field. The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination has served as a model for other states interested in ensuring that employers are barred from taking advantage of or taking against those who are most vulnerable to harassment, discrimination and retribution, as well as providing victims of violations with the tools that they need to seek justice. The state continues to improve upon the steps they’ve already taken: The most recent actions are detailed below:

  • Fines for Misclassification – Employers and staffing agencies have learned that there are financial advantages to misclassifying workers as contractors rather than as employees. In doing so they significantly disadvantage employees, cheating them of numerous benefits. The state has authorized the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development to fine companies that do this, assessing $250 per employee for a first violation and up to $1,000 for subsequent violations. If you have been the victim of this type of misclassification, your employer may also have to pay you a fine of up to 5% of their gross earnings from the previous year.

To ensure that employees are aware of their rights under this new law, the state is requiring companies to post information about the rule conspicuously within the workplace, detailing what employees’ rights are regarding misclassification. They have also prohibited retaliation against workers that complain about having been misclassified, and attached fines of between $100 and $1,000, as well as required reinstatement for any worker who has been terminated as a result of having reported being misclassified. Not only do these laws put the company on notice, they extend liability to include owners, directors, and even managers.

  • Stop-work Orders – Companies who violate employee-related laws, including state wage, benefits or tax laws, now face the very real possibility of having their businesses shut down by stop-work orders. Not only will companies lose revenues for each day that they are required to stop operations, but failure to comply will result in fines of $5,000 per day.
  • The WARN Act – Far too often employees are vulnerable to the whims of their employer’s actions and left suddenly faced with a significant loss of income by sudden shutdowns, mass layoffs, and similar employment actions. The WARN Act requires the amount of advance notice that companies are required to provide to those who will be affected from 60 days to 90 days, taking the state beyond the federally mandated 60-day-notice requirement and putting the state on a par with neighboring New York state. This rule applies to companies imposing layoffs or terminations of at least 50 full-time workers who will be laid off within a 30-day period. These workers must be given severance at one week’s pay for each year that each employee has been employed with the company and imposes an additional four weeks of severance pay for those employees for whom the advance notice has not been provided.
  • The Crown Act – This is an extension of the state’s Laws Against Discrimination, providing protection against discrimination for those whose hair or hair style displays “traits historically associated with race, including but not limited to hair texture, hair type, and protective hairstyles.” The law includes hairstyles within the definition of racial characteristics already protected under the NJLAD.

These new protections  for New Jersey workers add new tools for employees to gain compensation if they are a victim of harassment, retaliation and discrimination. If you believe that you have been damaged by an employment action and would like information on your rights and the options available to you, contact us today to set up an appointment and discuss your situation.

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