If you work in New Jersey, it’s important to know your rights. Each state has different laws to protect employees, and many of the laws aren’t what you’d expect. Here are ten laws you need to know if you work in New Jersey.
Note: Many of these laws have certain exceptions or are inapplicable to certain workers; you should consult with an attorney regarding your specific situation.
Employment of Minors
1. Anyone who is under 18 years old and wants to get a job in New Jersey must get written permission for employment from his or her local school district. This document is often called “working papers.” It certifies that the minor is in good health and has parental permission to work; a designated school official will sign the document only if he or she satisfied that the proposed working conditions and hours will not interfere with the minor’s education or damage the minor’s health. The school official may refuse to issue an employment certificate if the official believes that refusal would be in the minor’s best interest. Teen workers must get a separate employment certificate for each proposed employer (blank ones can be downloaded from the New Jersey Department of Labor).
New Jersey Wage & Hour Issues
2. Although the federal minimum wage is only $7.25 per hour, New Jersey has passed a state law setting the minimum wage for New Jersey workers at $8.44 per hour effective January 1, 2017. Where tips are part of a worker’s pay, an employer can pay a lower wage—currently the federal tipped employee minimum wage of $2.13/hour. However, an employer must keep track of all tips and meal credits (if applicable) the worker earns; if a worker’s average hourly compensation over the course of each week does not amount to at least the New Jersey minimum wage, the employer must pay the difference.
3. With very limited exceptions, New Jersey employers are not required to give employees breaks during a shift for any reason, unless the employees are minors. (Minors are entitled to a 30-minute unpaid meal or rest break after 5 continuous hours of work.) New mothers are entitled under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to take short breaks to express breast milk, within certain restrictions. If your employer does allow you short breaks, you cannot be required to clock out; the FLSA requires that your employer pay you for breaks under 30 minutes.
4. Your employer can require you to work overtime (more than 40 hours in your employer’s standard workweek). Overtime must be paid at a rate of time and one-half times the employee's regular rate of pay for each hour actually worked in excess of 40 hours in the workweek.
5. Your employer is not permitted to deduct any amounts from your payroll for the cost of licenses, drug testing, medical testing, uniforms, or uniform maintenance or to compensate for shortages or breakages, damage to company property, or failure to return company property (cell phone, ID, computer, etc.). Your employer may be able to file a civil claim against you or file criminal charges if you intentionally destroy or fail to return property, however.
6. There is no federal or state law that requires private employers in New Jersey to provide employees with either paid or unpaid sick leave or bereavement leave. However, a number of cities and towns in New Jersey have passed local ordinances requiring that employers provide employees with paid sick leave. If you meet certain requirements, you may qualify for unpaid protected leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) and/or the New Jersey Family Leave Act (NJFLA). These laws offer covered employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for certain family and medical-related reasons.
7. New Jersey law does not require private employers to provide employees with either paid or unpaid holiday leave and can require an employee to work weekends and/or holidays. A private employer does not have to pay an employee premium pay, like time and a half or double time, for working on weekends, night shifts, or holidays, unless that time worked qualifies the employee for overtime under standard overtime laws. An employee may be able to assert a religious basis for taking holiday time off; whether this is successful would depend on the facts of each individual situation.
8. An employer is not required to pay an employee any wages for time spent complying with a jury summons or serving on a jury. An employer may not discharge, penalize, threaten, or otherwise coerce an employee because he or she is required to attend court for jury duty.
9. Unfortunately, New Jersey state law does not require employers to pay hourly, non-exempt employees if they were unable to work a scheduled shift or day due to a declared state of emergency. If your employer gives you vacation time, it can force you to take vacation days for any days the business was closed due to a declared emergency that you were supposed to work. Employees who were unable to work due to a weather-related emergency or other disaster may be eligible for New Jersey temporary unemployment benefits.
10. You are not entitled to “three strikes” or any sort of warning before you are terminated. New Jersey is an "employment at will" state, meaning that an employer or employee may terminate the relationship at any time, without a reason and without cause. An employer may not terminate a worker’s employment for an unlawful cause, however, such as in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD), in retaliation for reporting harassment or discrimination in the workplace, or for whistleblowing. If you suspect you've been terminated for an unlawful reason, you may have grounds for a wrongful termination claim.
If you have a work-related legal issue or aren’t sure whether you’re getting what you deserve, the experienced employment attorneys at the Mark Law Firm can help. Our team of skilled labor and employment lawyers can meet with you in convenient locations in Basking Ridge, Newark, or Oradell. We’ll review your situation, help determine whether you may have a legal basis for a workers’ compensation, employment, or wage and hour claim, and help you take legal action to protect and enforce your rights. Contact us today or visit us at www.newjerseyattorneys.com.