In New Jersey, employment laws exist both to protect employees and ensure employers are free to operate their businesses as they wish. The laws cover a wide range of topics.
New Jersey Employment Laws
- “At-Will” Employment
- What Is At-Will Employment?
- Can an Employer Fire an At-Will Employee in New Jersey Even If They Have Worked for Them for a Long Time?
- Wages and Overtime
- Labor Laws
- How Often Are Pay Days Required?
- Payment Methods
- Pay Day Laws: Are You Penalized if You Don’t Obey Them?
- New Jersey Right to Work Laws
- Protection from Discrimination
- Protection from Sexual Harassment
- Do I Need a Lawyer?
New Jersey is an “at-will” employment state, meaning an employer can fire an employee without due cause if there is not an employment contract restricting firing. Additionally, this type of employment preserves employees’ right to resign whenever they desire.
Discharges based on the following are exceptions to the “at-will” rule:
- National origin
- Sexual orientation
- Marital status
The state of New Jersey also protects smokers from discharge.
What Is At-Will Employment?
At-will employment describes an employment arrangement in employment agreements where an employer or an employee may terminate the relationship at any time and for any reason. In general, it means that the employee is being hired for an indefinite time.
In an at-will relationship, neither the employee nor the employer is required to provide a valid reason for terminating the employment relationship. Almost any reason can be used to terminate an employee. This includes having no reason at all, so long as the reason is not illegal, such as discrimination.
An at-will employment arrangement has the disadvantage that regardless of whether the employer or employee decides to end the employment relationship, the other party generally has no recourse to prevent this.
Moreover, at-will employees are subject to the decisions of their employers, which means that the employer may change the terms of employment without notice and will not face any consequences. The employer can terminate at-will employees’ benefits, or their wages can be reduced, and the employer cannot be penalized for these decisions.
Exceptions to at-will terminations do exist, however. It is important to note that an at-will employment arrangement is different from an employment arrangement where an employment contract exists which provides certain rights and protections to employers and employees.
In an employment contract, one of the main rights is the right to specify termination procedures, including requiring the employer to demonstrate just cause for terminating an employee. At-will employment, however, does not require an employer to give a reason for terminating an employee and, as noted above, may be terminated for no reason at all.
It is important to note that employers are not permitted to terminate an at-will employee for any reason which is illegal.
In the United States, at-will employment arrangements have become the most common form of employment.
Can an Employer Fire an At-Will Employee in New Jersey Even If They Have Worked for Them for a Long Time?
It is possible for an employer to fire an at-will employee even if they have worked for the company for a long time. Even so, some exceptions may protect long-term employees from termination.
For example, suppose an at-will employee claims an implied contract promised job security unless there was good cause to fire the employee. In that case, the employee may be able to use the number of years they worked for their employer as proof of an implied contract.
Wages and Overtime
In New Jersey, several standards control the minimum amount of money an employee must earn and when more or less may be due.
- Minimum Wage: New Jersey has a minimum wage that exceeds the federal level. New Jersey’s minimum hourly wage is $13 per hour as of 2022. Commercial truckers must also be paid at least minimum wage in New Jersey, regardless of the billing practices of the trucking company.
- Overtime: If an employee works more than 40 hours in a pay period, they are entitled to one and a half of their normal pay rate for every hour that exceeds 40.
- Withheld Wages: Employers can only withhold wages or illegal deductions by following specific laws. The laws specify the time, manner, and mode of payment. It also prohibits withholding wages for illegal deductions such as breakage, spillage, and cash register shortages.
In New Jersey, federal and state laws govern payday laws and wage and hour requirements. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is the primary federal law governing wages and hours.
The New Jersey State Wage and Hour Law is the major state law governing payday requirements. It stipulates how much workers must be paid, how many hours they can be expected to work, and the special rules applicable to young workers.
How Often Are Pay Days Required?
Employers in New Jersey must pay hourly employees every two weeks (or more frequently, depending on the employment contract).
If the employee consents, an employer can pay wages by cash, check, or direct deposit.
Pay Day Laws: Are You Penalized if You Don’t Obey Them?
The failure to pay the legal minimum wage or other violations may result in back wages and civil or criminal action.
New Jersey Right to Work Laws
“Right-to-work” laws require unions to allow the hiring of non-union workers, even though non-union workers are still entitled to the benefits negotiated by the union. However, union-heavy states like New Jersey do not have such laws despite a growing number of states passing them. New Jersey courts have also upheld union agreements that require union membership.
However, a growing number of states have enacted right-to-work laws. Texas, Florida, Arizona, and Michigan are among these states. These states do not require employees or prospective employees to join a union or pay union dues to work for a company with a collective bargaining agreement. Right-to-work advocates argue that the requirement of union membership is unfair and it should be voluntary. At the same time, opponents charge that right-to-work laws are intended to decrease union membership.
Generally, unions are regulated at the federal level by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), established by the passage of the National Labor Relations Act. The Act sets forth rules and procedures for businesses and labor organizations that wish to enter into collective bargaining agreements.
Protection from Discrimination
Federal law prohibits discrimination in the workplace. Protected classes include:
- National origin
- Sex – including pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions
- Disability – including pregnancy
- Age, if 40 or older
- Citizenship status
- Genetic information
In addition, New Jersey Law Against Discrimination protects against:
- Marital status
- Domestic partnership or civil union status
- Affectional or sexual orientation
- Gender identity or expression
- Atypical hereditary cellular or blood trait
- Military service
Protection from Sexual Harassment
In addition to federal law, New Jersey has strict standards against sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is also prohibited under the Law Against Discrimination. It is defined as any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual relations, or any other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.
When an employer suggests sexual favors as a condition of employment, it is called quid pro quo harassment. Similar to preferential treatment, it occurs when a company conditions favorable treatment – such as promotions, salary increases, or preferred assignments – on sexual relations.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated or otherwise treated illegally under New Jersey’s labor laws, including sexual harassment, you should immediately speak with a New Jersey employment lawyer. Attorneys familiar with New Jersey’s laws and standards can represent your best interests and help you secure the desired outcome.
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