New Jersey employers are required to comply with numerous federal and state employment laws. If you are an employer and violate one of these laws, you could face substantial fines, penalties, and potential legal liability. There are more than 180 employment laws at the federal level alone, and New Jersey has its own statutes and regulations that govern the employment relationship. Here are seven major employment laws that many employers violate from the employment attorneys at Swartz Swidler.
Some employers run afoul of the National Labor Relations Act when they terminate employees for engaging in certain types of activities. For example, firing an employee for discussing compensation with other employees might be viewed as interfering with the right to engage in collective bargaining or to form a union. Similarly, terminating employees for complaining about other conditions of the workplace can also be viewed as interfering with their rights to form a union or to engage in collective bargaining. Employees are allowed to discuss their compensation with each other and to organize to try to improve their workplace conditions, benefits, and pay.
The Fair Labor Standards Act covers the minimum wage and overtime rules. It also restricts the types of jobs minors are allowed to perform. There are many ways that you could be violating the FLSA. While the FLSA sets the federal minimum wage at $7.25 per hour, New Jersey requires employers to pay at least $12 per hour to covered statutory employees, which will be increased to $13 per hour in 2022. As a New Jersey employer, you are required to pay all non-exempt employees the state’s higher minimum wage instead of the federal minimum wage.
You must also pay your employees for every hour worked. If you are asking your employees to prepare for work off-the-clock or allow them to work through their meal breaks, you could be breaking the law. Similarly, if you have tipped employees, you must make sure that their compensation equals or exceeds the state’s minimum wage. If it does not, you must make up the difference between their tipped wages and the minimum wage.
If your non-exempt workers work more than 40 hours during a week, you must pay an overtime premium equal to one-and-one-half times their regular rates of pay. Finally, you cannot classify employees as exempt or as independent contractors unless they meet the specific legal definitions.
The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination based on the disability status of an employee or applicant. There are numerous ways that you might violate this law. For example, if you think that an applicant appears to have a disability, you should avoid asking him or her about it or basing your employment decision on the applicant’s perceived disability. You can ask whether he or she will be able to perform the tasks of the position with or without accommodations, however.
Only choosing to make some applicants undergo a physical exam based on their perceived disabilities can also get your company into hot water. Any physical that your business requires must be required of all applicants and be directly related to the jobs that they will perform. Mandatory drug testing of employees can also lead to issues if an employee cannot provide a urine sample because of bladder issues. In this type of situation, you should provide an alternative test to an employee who cannot give a urine sample to accommodate him or her.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits workplace discrimination based on the protected characteristics of applicants and employees. This law also means that employers must promptly address discrimination and harassment in the workplace, including when the person engaging in the discrimination or harassment is a supervisor, another employee, or a client. If an employee complains about discrimination or harassment based on his or her protected characteristics, you should promptly investigate what happened and take action to end it.
5. Whistleblower Laws
Employees have the right to report safety violations and other actions that they believe might violate the law or their rights. While going through an investigation might be annoying, you should not take out your frustration on the employee who filed the complaint. If you do, you can face a whistleblower lawsuit for retaliating against an employee who exercised his or her rights and reported your company.
6. Genetic Information Non-discrimination Act
The Genetic Information Non-discrimination Act might be less familiar to you, but you need to understand it so that you can avoid breaking the law. Under the GINA, you cannot ask employees about their family medical histories. It is a good idea to also tell your employees that they cannot ask about the medical histories of their co-workers to avoid violating this law.
If you have 50 or more employees who work within 75 miles of each other, your business is covered by the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. Under the FMLA, eligible employees include those who have worked for your company for at least one year and have worked 1,250 hours or more during that time. Eligible employees must be granted up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave off in a 12-month period to care for their own serious medical conditions or those of their loved ones. You must also return the employee to his or her former job or one that has similar duties and offers the same pay and benefits.
You might wonder whether you can fire an employee that does not return after exhausting his or her FMLA leave. In some cases, you might need to provide additional leave to the employee as a reasonable accommodation under the ADA. However, providing accommodations does not mean that the leave must be indefinite.
Get Help From an Experienced Employment Lawyer
If you have questions about employment laws, you should consult an experienced employment law attorney. Call Swartz Swidler today to request a consultation at (856) 685-7420.