Like Springsteen, New Jersey employers are reminiscing and singing about the “Glory Days,” the days before the passing of recent, aggressive labor laws like Paid Sick Leave, Pay Equity, and others.
2018 has been a challenging year for New Jersey businesses. Since his first weeks in office, Governor Murphy has made it clear that he is committed to advancing employee rights. Unfortunately, what’s good for employees complicates things for Garden State employers.
Put down your Taylor ham, egg and cheese sandwich and take note of the laws that have already gone into effect – and the ones you can expect to hear more about in the coming months.
Move over “equal pay for equal work,” starting July 1st all employers must pay the “same wage and same benefits for substantially similar work” to all protected classes. The broadly-defined protected classes, coupled with the ambiguity of the substantially similar language, makes this law difficult to interpret.
What’s perfectly clear are the hefty penalties associated with non-compliance, including repayment of up to six years of back pay, and damages of up to three times the amount a claimant was denied in compensation.
In a recent webinar on the topic, Lisa Salcido, Director of Balance Point’s HR consulting service (BPHR), warns employers…
- Don’t reduce the salaries of higher paid workers to comply.
- Don’t prohibit employees from discussing their salaries. The law provides greater protections to employees.
- Don’t ignore the law. The burden of proof is on the employer to prove they have not violated the law.
- Don’t tackle this law alone. You need a partner that can help you navigate the law’s uncertainties.
Employee Misclassification Task Force
New Jersey’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development, along with the DOL, turned up the heat this summer by cracking down on “unscrupulous contractors who engage in 1099 fraud.” A Task Force was created to focus on employee misclassification, ensure that workers are protected, and that businesses are playing by the rules.
The state follows the ABC Test with respect to the proper classification of independent contractors. To qualify as an independent contractor, a worker must:
- Be free from control or direction
- Perform services outside the scope of services offered in the usual course of business
- Be customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, profession, or business
Expansion of Unemployment Benefits for Striking Workers
New Jersey joins New York, along with several other states, in offering unemployment benefits to striking workers. This is thanks to a law Governor Murphy signed on August 10th. The law covers any claim for a period of unemployment commencing on or after July 1, 2018.
Another significant change in law is that a replacement worker is presumed to be permanent unless the employer certifies in writing that the striking worker will be permitted to return to his or her prior position upon the conclusion of the labor dispute. An employer that fails to provide such written notice can be penalized $750 per week, per employee.
Like many of these laws, vague language makes much of the law unclear and employers will have to wait it out for clarification.
Paid Sick Leave Law
New Jersey employers experienced a fright just days before Halloween. On October 29th the Paid Sick Leave law went into effect striking fear in many who scrambled to comply.
The law requires employers of all sizes to provide up to 40 hours of paid sick leave per year. What sounds straightforward is complicated by the long list of reasons an employee can call out sick and the vague doctor’s note guidelines.
The law requires employers to commit to a 12-month period “benefit year” and review all current time off policies and procedures. “Front load,” took on a new meaning. Not a washer/dryer style, it is one of two ways (along with accrual) that employers can choose from to provide employees their earned sick leave.
Ones to Watch
There’s no time to catch your breath. There are new laws on the horizon that may soon cause a stir including:
Restriction of Non-Compete Agreements – This bill places even further restrictions on the use and enforceability of non-compete agreements.
Expansion of Paid Family Leave Bill – If this bill passes, employers with 30+ employees will have to provide paid family leave, instead of the current 50 or more. It would also lengthen the leave time from six weeks to 12.
Legalization of Recreational Marijuana Use – New Jersey may soon take up legislation to make marijuana legal. In fact, Governor Murphy said he hopes it can be completed by the end of the year. How this will affect employers who wish to maintain a drug-free workplace is unclear.
You may not be able to pump your own gas, but you can fill up on relevant and timely information to help your organization thrive in 2019. Balance Point is committed to keeping you informed and up-to-date on all labor laws and HR best practices. If you don’t receive our updates, subscribe below.