• New Jersey Employers Prepare for 2015
  • March 25, 2015 | Authors: Patrick T. Collins; Annmarie Simeone
  • Law Firm: Norris McLaughlin Marcus P.A. A Professional Corporation - Bridgewater Office
  • With 2014 at an end, it is as important as ever for employers to ready their businesses for the new year. We have compiled some of the items New Jersey employers should consider as we enter 2015:
    • New Jersey’s minimum wage increases to $8.38 per hour, effective January 1, 2015. Be sure that your payroll is updated to reflect this change which followed the state constitutional amendment mandating that the minimum wage be tied to the rate of inflation.
    • On March 1, 2015, the New Jersey Opportunity to Compete Act, signed into law by Governor Christie several months ago, will go into effect. The “Ban the Box Law,” as it has come to be known, restricts the ability of employers with 15 or more employees to conduct criminal background checks on potential new employees or current employees applying for new positions within the company. Some exceptions are built into this law, but employers should use the next two months to determine if the Ban the Box law covers them. If covered, an employer should immediately review (and revise, if necessary) its recruitment and hiring practices and documents for compliance by March 1.
    • Several laws have posting requirements, and employers should insure they are in compliance with those requirements. For example, posters addressing state wage and hour laws, unemployment benefits, workers compensation benefits, and the NJ Law Against Discrimination must be conspicuously posted in the workplace. More recently enacted laws, such as the NJ SAFE Act, also have a posting requirement. In addition, some laws, such as the NJ CEPA, require notices to be distributed to employees annually. Similarly, employers are required to meet posting requirements, as well as written notice requirements, under laws such as the Family Leave Insurance Law.
    • Paid sick leave laws continue to be adopted in municipalities around the State, and all of them are unique in their applicability and requirements. Some of these laws also have posting requirements. Newark and Jersey City laws are already in place. In addition, a number of other municipalities have adopted paid sick leave laws that will become effective in the coming weeks and months: Passaic (December 31, 2014), East Orange (January 6, 2015), Paterson and Irvington (January 7, 2015), and Trenton and Montclair (March 4 2015).
    • New Jersey employers should, as always, remain mindful of anti-discrimination laws as they conduct their day-to-day business operations. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has released its FY2014 Performance Report, which reflects that, despite limited resources, the EEOC is focused on pursuing investigations on behalf of employees who contend they were discriminated against by their employers. In addition, the EEOC continues to file lawsuits where it has identified allegedly discriminatory patterns and practices in violation of federal laws that impact a region, industry or class of employees or job applicants. The EEOC filed 17 such lawsuits in FY2014.
    • In terms of litigation development in the New Jersey state courts, employers should keep an eye out for a decision from the New Jersey Supreme Court, which recently announced that it would hear the case of Rodriguez v. Raymours Furniture Company, Inc. Essentially, the issue on appeal is whether an employer can shorten the time period within which a state law employment claim must be filed, by including such a provision in an employment application. In Rodriguez, the appellate court had determined that an employer could, in fact, reduce that time period from 2 years to 6 months by conspicuously displaying such a provision in the application, creating an enforceable contract. If the employer’s position is upheld, this could offer some level of protection to employers by restricting employee opportunities to sue under state law.
    • If you have not looked at your employee handbook in the past year, you should set aside some time to do that now. Changes in your business practices, as well as in federal, state, and local laws, can impact your company policies, and these changes should be captured in your employee handbooks.