Two District 14 legislatures were prime sponsors of New Jersey’s wage-theft bill that Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver signed into law on Tuesday.
“We must ensure that every hardworking individual in New Jersey receives the wages they worked hard to earn,” said Oliver, who was serving as the acting governor, while Governor Murphy was away.
The law strengthens existing wage and hourly pay rules by increasing penalties and fines on employers who fail to pay employees wages, benefits or overtime that is due.
“The unscrupulous employers robbing the hard-working people of New Jersey of their time and money need to face the consequences of their actions,” said Sen. Linda Greenstein, D-Middlesex, Mercer. “When wage theft is apparent, there must be effective laws in place to protect the workers of our state and to punish the employers. Wage theft is a serious crime and it is about time that our laws reflect this.”
According to the new law, violators face a fine of $500 to $1,000 and 10 to 90 days in jail. Penalties for repeat violators are $1,000 to $2,000 fine and 10 to 100 days in jail. An employee can also sue their employer, and if found in violation may have to pay the worker double the amount of wages owed. However, the additional damages would not have to be paid for a first violation if the company did not realize a mistake was made and pays what is owed within 30 days.
“Above all else, this law is about workers’ rights,” said Assemblyman Wayne DeAngelo, D-Middlesex, Mercer. “Employers in New Jersey should be held to a high standard to treat their employees with the decency and legality they deserve. No one should be withheld one penny of the wages they are legally entitled to.”
New Jersey Business & Industry Association vice president of government affairs Michael Wallace said the organization supports the law’s concept but is concerned that employers may be penalized because of inadvertent mistakes.
“As a result of this law, employers acting in good faith will now be threatened with excessive civil and criminal penalties for [an] unintended mistake,” Wallace said in a statement. “In certain scenarios, these unsuspecting employers will be forced to choose between protecting their business and defending their rights in court.”