As businesses have begun opening up again, there are new challenges to meeting payroll, managing a remote workforce and being able to weather future shuttering of business operations as the pandemic reaches its climax.
It is important for employers to be aware of current law regarding wage and hour practices in order to avoid costly fines and potential litigation. Working through employment disputes can be complicated, so it is important to know the law and to seek experienced legal counsel to find solutions that minimize the costs of resolution, shield your business from liability and preserve your reputation.
Amendments to the WTA
Since New Jersey amended its Wage Theft Act (WTA) in 2019, the state’s wage and hour laws have become some of the toughest in the nation. The WTA now criminalizes some wage and hour violations, mandates stiff fines for violations, increases an employer’s exposure to damages and creates a presumption of retaliation for adverse actions. Some of the changes include:
- Provisions for liquidated damages of 200% as well as payment of wages owed to the employee. The only way to avoid the triple damages is to take advantage of a good faith defense against the accusation of wage theft. Even with this defense, the employer still must admit the violation and pay the amount owed within 30 days of the employee’s claim.
- Statute of limitations for wage claims now six years, increased from two years.
- A presumption of retaliation if the employer takes an adverse action in response to an employee complaint.
- Successor liability, in which a new employer can be held liable for wage violations of their predecessor.
In addition, there are a number of new requirements regarding wages, including advanced notice of wage changes, accurate record-keeping, payment of full wages when due and accurate payment for remote work. With these new laws, employers will also need to be wary of potential retaliation when having to make tough decisions to furlough or lay off workers.
The pandemic and a difficult economic environment have made it more challenging than ever for employers to stay in operation. With new wage laws in place, following the law to a T will be critical.