Christie Vetoes Expansion of New Jersey Family Leave & Increased Minimum Wage

On July 21, 2017, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie conditionally vetoed two bills that would have expanded New Jersey’s pioneering paid Family Leave Act and raised minimum wage for certain transportation center service workers.  Under the New Jersey Family Leave Act (NJFLA), which applies to New Jersey companies with 50 or more employees, workers are eligible to receive up to 12 weeks of continuous leave during a given 24-month period to care for a newly born or adopted child, parent, a child under 18, spouse, or civil union partner who has a serious health condition requiring in-patient care, continuing medical treatment or medical supervision.  The leave is partially paid, and eligible employees can generally receive up to $633 per week.

The Bill (A4927) would have extended the NJFLA’s coverage to employers with 20 or more employees and expanded the definition of “family member” to include siblings, grandparents, grandchildren and parents-in-law.  Moreover, the Bill would have doubled the maximum number of weeks of family temporary disability leave benefits from 6 weeks to 12 weeks, increased available intermittent leave from 42 days to 84 days, and raised the weekly cap on paid benefits to $932, depending on the claimant’s income.

Governor Christie denounced the Bill’s supporters as disregarding the increased cost to taxpayers and the potentially adverse impact the bill would have on small businesses in New Jersey.

The minimum wage bill (A4870) would have significantly raised New Jersey’s minimum wage for employees at Newark Liberty International Airport, Newark Penn Station, and the Hoboken Terminal, from $10.10 to $17.98 per hour.  Incidentally, Christie vetoed a bill last year that would have raised New Jersey’s minimum wage from its current $8.44 to $15.00 per hour.  The New Jersey Business & Industry Association, considering the vetoes to be a victory to New Jersey employers, stated that the minimum wage bill would have set “a terrible precedent by circumventing the collective bargaining process and imposing backdoor wage and benefit increases by statute.”

For more information on these vetoes and current laws regarding family leave, minimum wage, or other applicable leave laws, please contact John C. Petrella, Esq., Chair of the firm’s Employment Litigation Practice Group, at jpetrella@nullnullgenovaburns.com, or Dina M. Mastellone, Esq., Chair of the firm’s Human Resources Practice Group, at dmastellone@nullnullgenovaburns.com, or 973-533-0777.

New Jersey Assembly Picks Up Fight For $15 Minimum Wage

The fight for a $15 minimum wage is gaining steam in the New Jersey Legislature. On May 26, 2016, the New Jersey Assembly passed Bill A15, which would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2021. Currently, the New Jersey State minimum wage is $8.38 per hour.

The $15 minimum wage would not get there all at once. Under the recently passed bill, the minimum wage first would increase to $10.10 per hour on January 1, 2017.  Then, between 2018 and 2021, the minimum wage would increase by the greater of $1.25 an hour or $1.00 an hour plus the CPI each year. An identical version of the Assembly’s bill has already passed the New Jersey Senate’s Labor Committee (Bill S15). If the full Senate passes the bill it will head to the Governor’s desk where it most likely will be vetoed.

But the Governor’s veto may not be the end of the bill. The Legislature is proposing that in the event of a Governor veto, the bill be put to a constitutional referendum for the voters to decide during the New Jersey General Election on November 7, 2017. This would not be the first time the Legislature managed to get around a veto to increase the minimum wage. The minimum wage was previously raised by constitutional referendum in 2013 when voters amended the State’s Constitution to increase the minimum wage to $8.25 per hour despite a Governor Christie veto.

While the proposed $15 minimum wage may seem a long way away, employers should start thinking now about how this would affect their business. Many employers are still struggling from the more than 15% increase in the minimum wage over the last two years. An increase to just $10.10 in 2018 (which is when the increase would take effect if the bill is vetoed but then approved through referendum) would reflect another 20% increase, or an almost 40% increase since 2013.  Such increased labor costs may be more than some employers can or are willing to absorb. For instance, Wendy’s recently stated it would replace some workers with automated machines in response to significant increases in minimum wage.

For more information regarding the potential impacts of Bill A15, or regarding any other wage and hour issues, please contact John R. Vreeland, Esq. Director of the Firm’s Wage & Hour Compliance Practice Group, at 973-535-7118 or jvreeland@nullgenovaburns.com, or Aaron C. Carter, Esq. at 973-646-3275 or acarter@nullgenovaburns.com.

NJ Requires Many Notifications to Employees in 2015

As New Jersey employers ring in the new year, they should be mindful of the New Jersey Department of Labor’s notice distribution requirements.  The DOL publishes several important notices which, in addition to posting, must be individually distributed to employees as follows:

New Jersey Security and Financial Empowerment Act (“NJ SAFE” Act)

  • In addition to a posting requirement, the NJ SAFE Act regulations require employers to “use other appropriate means to keep its employees so informed.”
  • Employers should include a written policy on the NJ SAFE Act in the employee handbook and/or distribute a copy of the notice to all current employees and to new employees upon hire.

Employer Obligation to Maintain and Report Records

  • Any new employee hired after November 7, 2011, must be provided a written copy of the notice at the time of hiring. The notice may be distributed to employees by hard copy or via electronic mail.

 New Jersey Family Leave Act (“NJ FLA”)

  • In addition to a posting requirement, the NJ FLA regulations require that if an employer has an employee handbook, “information concerning leave under the Act and employee obligations under the Act must be included in the handbook.”
  • If an employer does not have an employee handbook, it must “provide written guidance to each of its employees concerning all the employee’s rights and obligations under the Act.”
  • The DOL states that employers may duplicate and provide employees with a copy of the NJFLA Fact Sheet to provide such guidance.

New Jersey Family Leave Insurance

  • Employers must provide employees with a written copy of the notification: (i) at the time of the employee’s hiring; (ii) whenever an employee provides notice of a potential claim; and (iii) upon the first request of the employee. Written notification may be electronically transmitted to employees.

 New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act

  • The notice must be distributed annually to all employees.

NJ Gender Equity

  • Employers must provide a written copy of the notice to each employee who is hired after January 6, 2014 at the time of his or her hire.
  • Annually, on or before December 31 of each year, employers must provide each employee a written copy of the notice.
  • Employers also must provide each employee a written copy of the notice upon request.
  • The required written notice can be distributed electronically or in hard copy form.
  • In every instance in which a written notice is required to be provided to an employee, the written notice must be accompanied by an acknowledgment that the employee has received it and has read and understands its terms. This acknowledgment must be signed by the employee (in writing or by means of electronic verification) and returned to the employer within 30 days of the employee’s receipt of the notice.

It is important to note that, for some of these notices, merely posting will not fulfill the DOL’s distribution requirements.  Nor will merely including notices in your workplace Employee Handbook.  Each law sets forth unique notice requirements.  Moreover, the inclusion of required notices in an Employee Handbook is not recommended – only critical employment law and HR policies should be set forth in Employee Handbooks.

MINIMUM WAGE INCREASE REMINDER!

Effective January 1, 2015, the hourly minimum wage in New Jersey is $8.38 per hour.

For more information on employer obligations in 2015 and beyond, please contact Dina Mastellone, Esq., Director of the Human Resources Practice Group and Counsel in the Employment Law & Litigation Group, at dmastellone@nullgenovaburns.com, or Eileen Fitzgerald Addison, Esq., Associate in the Human Resources Practice Group, at eaddison@nullgenovaburns.com

New Wage and Hour Poster for 2015 Increase to New Jersey’s Minimum Wage

The New Jersey Department of Labor has issued a new Wage and Hour Law poster.  The new poster includes updates reflecting the imminent increase to New Jersey’s minimum wage to $8.38, effective January 1, 2015.  Employers are required to post notice of the minimum wage rate in a conspicuous place in which employees have access, such as the cafeteria or break room.  Employers may display this poster prior to January 1, 2015, but must also continue to post the mandated 2014 poster through December 31, 2014.

This serves as a reminder to all employers that the minimum wage increase will automatically take effect as of January 1, 2015.  Employers should be mindful of this increase and update their wage payment policies and payroll systems accordingly to reflect the applicable minimum wage rates and ensure that all employees are properly paid.

A copy of the minimum wage rate poster can be found on the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development’s website, or through this link: http://lwd.state.nj.us/labor/forms_pdfs/lsse/mw-220.pdf.

If you have any questions or for more information about the requirements of the updated minimum wage rate and its impact on your business’s payroll policies, please contact John R. Vreeland, Esq. Director of Wage & Hour Compliance, at 973-535-7118, jvreeland@nullgenovaburns.com or Allison Gotfried, Esq., at 973-646-3297, agotfried@nullgenovaburns.com.

New Jersey Minimum Wage Set To Increase To $8.38 Per Hour

New Jersey’s minimum wage will increase from $8.25 to $8.38 per hour on January 1, 2015. This increase is the result of a Constitutional Amendment that New Jersey voters approved in November 2013 which tied future increases in the minimum wage to increases in the consumer price index for all urban wage earners and clerical workers (“CPI”). The $0.13 increase in the minimum wage reflects a 1.59% increase in the CPI.

For more information about New Jersey’s minimum wage requirement and our firm’s wage and hour compliance audit services, please contact John R. Vreeland, Esq., Director of the firm’s Wage & Hour Compliance Practice Group, jvreeland@nullgenovaburns.com, or Joseph V. Manney, Esq., jmanney@nullgenovaburns.com.

Employer Can Be Liable For Its Predecessor’s FLSA Violations

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals recently held that an employer can be liable for its predecessor’s violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Thompson v. Real Estate Mortgage Network, No. 12-3828 (3d Cir. Apr. 4, 2014). The Third Circuit joins the Seventh and Ninth Circuits on the list of federal circuit courts that have extended successor liability –  a doctrine which has been applied to violations of Title VII, the NLRA, ERISA, the MPPAA, and the ADEA – to violations of the FLSA.

In light of Thompson, every employer in the Third Circuit that intends to acquire another business should fully vet its predecessor’s wage and hour practices for the three-year period that precedes acquisition. Such employers should also take into consideration that owners, officers, and other supervisory personnel may be personally liable for violations under the FLSA.

For more information about the impact of Thompson and our firm’s wage and hour compliance audit services, please contact John R. Vreeland, Esq., Director of the firm’s Wage & Hour Compliance Practice Group, jvreeland@nullgenovaburns.com, or Joseph V. Manney, Esq., jmanney@nullgenovaburns.com.

NJ Voters Approve Constitutional Amendment to Increase Minimum Wage

On Tuesday, New Jersey voters approved a Constitutional amendment which will increase the state’s minimum wage to $8.25 per hour on January 1, 2014 and will tie future annual increases to increases in the consumer price index for all urban wage earners and clerical workers.  As we discussed here, however, the amendment does not provide a mechanism for reducing the minimum wage in years in which the economy regresses.

Future blogs will discuss the impact of this increase on other wage and hour issues.

For more information about New Jersey’s minimum wage requirement and our firm’s wage and hour compliance audit services, please contact John R. Vreeland, Esq., Director of the firm’s Wage & Hour Compliance Practice Groupjvreeland@nullgenovaburns.com, or Joseph V. Manney, Esq.jmanney@nullgenovaburns.com.