In New Jersey, employment laws exist both to protect employees and ensure employers are free to operate their business as they wish. These laws extend several subjects, such as:
"At Will" Employment
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. Similarly, this type of employment preserves the employee’s right to resign whenever they desire.
Some exceptions to the "at will" rule include discharge based on any of the following:
- National origin
- Sexual orientation
- Marital status
New Jersey also protects against discharge for being a smoker.
Wages and Overtime
New Jersey has several standards controlling the minimum amount of money an employee must earn, and when more or less money may be legally due.
- Minimum Wage: New Jersey has a minimum wage that exceeds the federal level. As January 1, 2014, the minimum hourly wage in New Jersey is $8.25 per hour. New Jersey also requires that commercial truckers be paid at least minimum wage, regardless of the typical billing practices of the trucking company. Moreover, students who are employed by their university must be paid at least 85% of minimum wage.
- Overtime: If an employee works more than 40 hours in a pay period, they are entitled to one and a half of their normal rate of pay for every hour that exceeds 40.
- Withheld Wages: Employers can only withhold wages or illegal deductions by following specific laws. These laws stipulate the time, manner and mode of payment. They also prohibit the withholding of wages for illegal deductions, such as breakage, spillage and cash register shortages.
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 forbidding sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is also prohibited under the Law Against Discrimination, and is defined as any kind of unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual relations, or any other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.
These types of harassment may be broken down into two general types of sexual harassment.
Quid pro quo harassment occurs when an employer implicitly or explicitly suggests sexual favors as a condition of employment. Similarly, preferential treatment occurs where an employer 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 speak with a New Jersey employment lawyer immediately. An attorney who is familiar with New Jersey's laws and standards will be able to represent your best interests and help you secure the right result.