New Jersey Employment LawsMinimum Wage, Overtime Laws, and Family Leave Entitlement
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Companies doing business in New Jersey must comply with both state and federal employment laws that govern the payment of minimum wages, family and medical leave, and overtime.
New Jersey’s minimum wage of $7.15 per hour (the amount will increase to $7.25 in July 2009) exceeds the federal minimum wage of $6.55 per hour (July 2008). While most employees are covered under New Jersey minimum wage laws, those who earn more than $30 each month from tips can be paid only $2.13 per hour; employers, however, must make up the difference if tips plus wages do not add up to the regular minimum rate. Certain professions and categories of workers are exempt from wage and hour laws in New Jersey. These include:
- Full-time students employed by the college or university at which they are enrolled can be paid at 85 percent or above of the effective minimum wage;
- Outside sales persons;
- Car sales persons;
- Part-time employees primarily engaged in the care and tending of children in the home of the employer;
- Minors under 18 years of age (with certain exceptions); and
- Workers at summer camps.
New Jersey overtime laws stipulate that employees who work more than 40 hours in a week must receive time and a half (one and one half times the regular wage) for every hour worked in excess of that time. This law does not apply to individuals employed in executive, administrative, or professional positions.
The New Jersey Family Leave Act (NJFLA) allows workers in companies with more than 50 or more employees nationwide to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave within a 24-month period for certain qualifying events. Employees file for NJFLA leave with their employer, not a state agency. The birth of a child; the adoption of a child; or the need to care for a child, a parent, or a spouse because of their serious health condition are all considered qualifying events. Unlike the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the Family Leave Act does not allow time off for an employee’s own serious health condition.
Employees who are adopting or having a child can take leave at any time within a year of the child’s birth or placement. Children or family members who need to be taken care of because of a serious health condition must be under 18 years old or dependent adults who have physical or mental handicaps that cause them to be incapable of looking after themselves. NJFLA defines “serious health condition” as a condition, impairment, illness or injury that either requires inpatient care or ongoing medical supervision.
For more details on NJFLA take a look at the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights Fact Sheet.
Who Qualifies for Leave under the NJFLA?
New Jersey employers who employ 50 or more part- or full-time employees, either in-state or out, must comply with the law and provide leave to qualified employees. Qualified employees must have worked with their employer for at least 12 months and for a minimum of 1,000 hours within that time frame.
Health care benefits continue while an employee is on NJFLA leave. Employers must abide by the same policies they have in place that cover temporary leaves for other kinds of circumstances. Employers can require that the employee obtains certification from a health care provider to verify a family member’s health condition, and can also request a second opinion at the employee’s expense. Third opinions, however, requested by an employer must be paid for by the employer and are binding on all parties.
What Constitutes Reasonable Notice of Leave?
An employee should be prepared to provide reasonable notice (30 days prior to adoption or childbirth; 15 days or as soon as practical for family medical problems) to an employer before taking NJFLA leave. In return, an employer must inform employees about their right to NJFLA through conspicuous postings and information in company policy manuals and handbooks.
Returning to Work
While employers may hire temporary staff to fill in during a worker’s absence, they must allow the worker to return to the same position at the end of the leave period or offer a “substantially similar position,” which means one that has equal benefits, pay, status, and seniority.
Layoffs may legitimately remove a position and relieve the employer of the need to retain a job. Furthermore, New Jersey employers may deny leave to the seven highest-paid employees at the company or those whose salaries are within the top 5 percent of pay, but only if their absence would cause serious economic harm to the organization. Employers must inform staff of any denial of family leave as soon as possible and employees who have already left must return to work within 10 days if leave is denied. Additionally, some employees qualify for intermittent time off or reduced hours, depending on the circumstances.
On May 2, 2008, New Jersey Governor Corzine signed the Paid Family Leave Law which offers paid leave entitlement to all New Jersey employees. The new legislation allows workers up to six weeks of partially paid leave to care for sick family members, or to care for and bond with newborn or newly-adopted children. Like the NJFLA, this law does not provide paid leave to employees for their own illnesses. Paid Family Leave days run concurrently with time off under the NJFLA and the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.
The law will become effective in the middle of 2009. Unlike the FMLA and the NJFLA, it applies to employees in companies of any size. Employees in companies with under 50 employees, however, do not have job protection rights and under the law as it is written at the moment, they will not have redress should their position be eliminated while they are away. Nevertheless, employees in companies with 50 or more staff will continue to have job protection rights under the FMLA and the NJFLA. Employees who are eligible for this leave will receive up to two-thirds of their salaries with a maximum amount payable of $524 a week. The money for this program will come from payroll deductions.
Under FMLA, an employee is entitled to take up to 12 weeks leave in a 12-month period because of their own serious health condition. For more details visit Family and Medical Leave Act.
If you feel your employer has wrongfully denied you leave, deprived you of minimum wage or overtime pay, or discriminated against you because you asked for leave or minimum wages, you can contact the Department of Labor’s hotline at 1-866-4-US-WAGE or get in touch with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights. The Division is only able to investigate claims filed within 180 days of the alleged violation or denial. Employers who fail to comply with employment laws can be fined, subjected to civil or criminal lawsuits, and/or required to provide restitution and back pay to wronged employees.
You should also consider seeking advice from a New Jersey employment attorney to help with your employment law issue.