New Jersey’s New and Improved Wage Theft Act

On August 6, 2019, New Jersey passed one of the toughest wage theft statutes in the country. This amended statute, the New Jersey Wage Theft Act, emphasizes the importance of worker protection. The statute not only raises the level of protection for retaliation claims, but also increases wage theft penalties.

First and foremost, the Wage Theft Act greatly expands the time period in which an employee may bring a claim for unpaid wages, unlawful discharge and other retaliatory acts from two years to six years. Furthermore, remedies for employees now include reinstatement, corrective action by the employer and, most importantly, payment of lost wages plus 200% of the lost wages amount as liquidated damages. This essentially establishes threefold damages for wage theft violations.

Furthermore, with regards to maintaining proper records, the Wage Theft Act states that employers that fail to produce the records required under the wage and hour laws face a rebuttable presumption that allegations concerning the period of time and number of hours relevant to an asserted violation are true.

The Wage Theft Act also expanded the liability of joint and successor employers. There is a now rebuttable presumption that a successor entity is liable for the violations of the predecessor if only two of the following factors are shown:

  • They perform similar work within the same geographical area.
  • Occupy the same premises.
  • Have the same telephone or fax number.
  • Have the same email address or Internet website.
  • Employ substantially the same work force, administrative employees, or both.
  • Utilize the same tools, facilities, or equipment.
  • Employ or engage the services of any person or persons involved in the direction or control of the other or
  • List substantially the same work experience.

Lastly, the Wage Theft Act also adds criminal penalties onto the civil/monetary penalties. It increases the penalties for a first offense from up to $100 to between $500 and $1,000, 10 to 90 days’ imprisonment or both. For second and subsequent offenses, the penalties increase to between $1,000 and $2,000, 10 to 100 days imprisonment or both.

The majority of the law went into effect on August 6, except for some of the criminal penalties which went into effect on November 1, 2019.