“Wage Theft” Legislation Signed into Law

State legislation (S1790, now P.L.2019, c.212) intended to protect workers against wages theft was signed into law Tuesday by Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver. Oliver has been serving as acting governor while Governor Phil Murphy was vacationing in Italy. Gov. Murphy is expected to return to the Garden State this afternoon.

The measure enhances enforcement of the state’s wage and hour laws by holding employers accountable for unpaid wages, benefits, or overtime as required by law through increased damages and fines, and makes victims of wage theft eligible to receive both the wages owed and liquidated damages of 200 percent of wages owed.

 Employers who engage in a “pattern of wage non-payment” may be charged with a third-degree crime punishable by three to five years in prison and up to $15,000 in fines under the new statute. The law also makes employers liable for the wage and hour violations of their contractors and client employers, and broadens the definition of retaliation.

The NJCUL joined a broad coalition of some thirty-five business trade that unsuccessfully supported an alternate less onerous measure (A1852; S392). The trade groups supported efforts to target bad actors that willfully and repeatedly violated wage and hour laws while being fair to businesses that acted in good faith.