Your Rights in the Workplace: Wages and Overtime
The average worker in New Jersey made approximately $1,428 per week in the second quarter of 2022. Whether you made more or less than this, New Jersey workers have one thing in common: with very few exceptions, they’re protected by New Jersey State labor laws. This legislation defines and helps protect your rights to overtime, leave, and benefits. In this article, we will explore your rights to wages and overtime. Knowing your rights can help you ensure you’re getting what you’re entitled to. If you are not, you may choose to consult with a knowledgeable employment attorney.
New Jersey Wage and Hour Law
New Jersey labor laws establish a mandatory state minimum wage. This currently stands at $14.13 per hour. Governor Murphy signed the minimum wage law back in 2019 and it will gradually raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2024.
The minimum wage has an impact on small business’ payroll. To lessen the impact on seasonal and small employers, they have until 2026 to reach $15 per hour. Currently, the minimum wage for this sector stands at $12.93.
Other exceptions include:
- Agricultural workers – current minimum wage $12.01
- Rising to $15 by 2027
- Long-term care staff – current minimum wage $17.13
- Tipped workers – current minimum wage $5.26
- Tip credit is $7.87 – employers must make it up to the state minimum if this is not met with tips
Increases in the minimum wage are calculated based on rates set out in the State Labor Law or on the Consumer Price Index (CPI). The higher of these figures is taken each year.
Exceptions to the Minimum Wage Law
You may have heard that minors are not covered by minimum wage protection. However, there are many exceptions to this. Minors working in occupations such as retail, laundry, cleaning, and hotels are covered by minimum wage protection.
If you’re a minor and think you’re not covered, it pays to do some research. There are several occupations that are not exempt, so make sure you are getting the right wages.
Many salespeople are also exempt from the minimum wage law. However, if you work on commission, this is still considered earnings. Commissions income must at least reach the minimum wage, or the employer must top it up to meet the required level.
How Many Hours Should You Work Each Week?
Under the new legislation, a standard working week in most jobs is 40 hours. This means that you are entitled to overtime pay for every minute you work over 40 hours.
Can Employers Change Wages?
Under state law, employers are entitled to change their employees’ wages. They need to give you advance notice, and it can’t be done retroactively. However, they may not reduce your pay below the state minimum wage if you are in a qualifying job.
Overtime Pay Rights in New Jersey
You are entitled to overtime pay at a rate of 1.5 times your regular hourly rate for every minute you work over 40 hours. The workweek is defined as a seven-day period. This means that your employer is not required to pay you more for working Saturdays, Sundays, or even holidays.
Exceptions from Overtime Law
State law allows for exemptions from overtime for certain roles. This includes:
- Outside sales capacity
Only roles that fall into these categories are exempt, and employers must pay overtime at 1.5 times the standard hourly rate in all other cases.
Do’s and Don’ts for Employees
Employees may feel anxious about pursuing their rights. However, New Jersey law provides both rights and protections for you.
Do’s for Employees
Do talk to your employer if you feel that there is a discrepancy between what you are being paid and the state law. If your employer does not rectify the error, you may have the right to pursue a lawsuit to reclaim your unpaid wages. Consult with an employment attorney at McOmber McOmber & Luber.
Don’ts for Employees
Don’t assume that if you complain, you’ll lose your job. New Jersey law protects employees from retaliation if they raise a claim for unpaid wages. An experienced wage and hour attorney can help you navigate this process.
Do’s and Don’ts for Employers
As an employer, you have a duty to uphold the law. Here are some key do’s and don’ts to remain compliant.
Do’s for Employers
Do not feel that state laws on overtime pay mean that you can’t require your employees to work overtime. You still have the right to do this. All you have to do is abide by any agreements in place and pay employees the correct wages. Also, investigate each job in your company and find out what laws apply to each one. If you employ outside salespeople and clerical staff, the law is different for each. Do your homework to make sure you’re compliant.
If an employee has two jobs with your company with different hourly rates, overtime laws still apply. Calculate an average hourly rate based on the number of hours they’re contracted to perform each role. You must then use this average hourly rate to calculate the premium they are due. Consult with an attorney if you are unsure of your overtime obligations.
Don’ts for Employers
What if an employee approaches you and offers to work hours in excess of the standard 40 hours at their regular rate of pay? You can’t accept it – it’s illegal.
Even if both sides agree, the law still stands.
Also, don’t make any deductions from employee wages other than those permitted by law. Breakages or damage to company machinery may not be deducted from wages.
How the Wage Theft Act Affects You
The Wage Theft Act protects you if you are owed unpaid wages. Employers may not retaliate against you for making such claims. In addition, they need to pay your costs and attorney’s fees if you are successful.
You also have the right to join a class action lawsuit. An attorney who specializes in New Jersey wage-hour law is best placed to give you the right advice about whether you have grounds for a lawsuit.
How to Handle Questions About Wages and Overtime
Our lawyers specialize in wage and hour cases. They’ll examine your case and help you to get the wages you’re entitled to.
Call us today at (732) 842-6500 or reach out online to schedule a free consultation.