New Jersey Wage & Hour Claims Lawyer
Wage and hour law deals with issues surrounding the payment of wages, including the minimum wage, regular wages, and overtime pay. Employers have responsibilities under both federal and New Jersey state laws to pay wages fully and promptly. Nevertheless, wage and hour violations are common among New Jersey employers and the employees they affect. Whether the error was accidental or deliberate, isolated or departmental, one-time or ongoing, wage and hour violations are known as “wage theft” because they unlawfully deprive workers of property that rightfully belongs to them. If your wages were wrongfully stolen from you, Poulos LoPiccolo can help you get them back. Contact our experienced New Jersey wage & hour lawyers today.
Minimum Wage Violations
Common unpaid wage claims in New Jersey include failure to pay the minimum wage, failing to pay workers for rest periods that should be compensated, or violating the New Jersey Wage Payment Law regarding pay periods and final paychecks.
The federal Fair Labor Standards Act and New Jersey Wage and Hour Law both require payment of at least a minimum wage, plus overtime at the rate of one and a half times the worker’s regular wage for any hours over 40 worked in a week. The federal minimum wage is currently $7.25 an hour, but New Jersey has passed its own minimum wage law that is $12.00 an hour in 2022 with cost of living increases annually. New Jersey employers with five employees or less or seasonal workers can pay a lower minimum wage of $11.10 per hour, or $10.44 an hour for agricultural workers. Tipped employees can be paid a minimum wage of $5.13.
Workers under 18 years old in New Jersey are entitled to a 30-minute break after they have worked for five consecutive hours. Workers 18 and older are not entitled to any breaks by law. Employers can lawfully provide workers with an unpaid break, so long as the break lasts at least 20 minutes, employees are free to leave the premises, and they actually take the break and don’t perform any work during that time. If any of these conditions are not met, the employer should be paying the employee for their time. Employees who were not compensated when they should have been can sue to recover those lost wages.
Under the New Jersey Wage Payment Law, workers generally are entitled to receive paychecks twice a month at regularly scheduled intervals that are determined in advance. An employee who gets fired or quits is entitled to receive their final paycheck on the regular payday for that last pay period.
Overtime violations often occur when the employer miscalculates working time in some way, such as misapplying rules regarding waiting time, meal breaks, traveling between job sites, required meetings, and other periods that should be compensated but are not. Employees cannot lawfully “work off the clock” or stay too late to finish a task without getting paid, whether it’s the employee’s idea or the employer’s. Employees must be paid for all hours worked, and those hours must be computed for overtime purposes. Every hour worked over 40 hours in a given week must be paid at time-and-a-half.
The most common overtime violation comes from the misclassification of employees as exempt from overtime. Many employers will misclassify workers as independent contractors when they are really employees to get out of paying overtime, taxes and employee benefits like health insurance. Regardless of how the employer classifies the job or any agreement between employer and employee, courts will look at the nature of the job and how it is actually performed to determine whether the worker is truly an employee or not. If so, the worker could be entitled to years of unpaid overtime.
Employers also misclassify employees as exempt under the FLSA provision exempting “executive, administrative, and professional” employees from overtime. Each exemption includes its own criteria to make one exempt (the “duties” test) as well as a minimum amount the employee must be paid to be exempt (the “salary basis” test). Employers frequently misclassify non-exempt employees as exempt under this law, either deliberately or by misapplying the law. Just because your employer tells you that you are exempt or your job description says you are in an exempt position, this might not be right. Courts look at what work is actually performed and whether the job meets the applicable tests for exemption. We can analyze these factors for you and let you know whether you are being misclassified and have a good case for reclaiming unpaid overtime.
Remedies for Wage and Hour Claims and How Poulos LoPiccolo Can Help
Under the FLSA, workers are entitled to recover two years’ worth of back pay for wage and hour violations, or three years for willful violations. New Jersey has gone further and enacted a law allowing employees to recover their unpaid wages or overtime plus 200% of those wages as “liquidated damages,” essentially paying employees triple their damages for wage and hour violations. The liquidated damages provision can be avoided if the employer can show their error was made in good faith on reasonable grounds and that it is their first violation, provided they acknowledge their mistake and pay up within 30 days.
Additionally, New Jersey employees can go back and recover six years’ worth of violations, compared to only two or three years under federal law. Employees who are successful can also have their attorney’s fees and costs paid for by their employer, letting the worker keep 100% of their award.
New Jersey Wage & Hour Lawyers Serving Ocean, Monmouth & Middlesex County
If you’ve been the victim of wage theft, unpaid wages, unpaid overtime, or other New Jersey wage and hour violations in Ocean, Monmouth or Middlesex County, the employment law attorneys at Poulos LoPiccolo are ready to take on your case and recover every penny you have coming to you. Call our experienced NJ wage and hour claim lawyers today.