New Jersey Wage and Hour Lawyers

Recovering Unpaid Wages, Overtime, Commissions and Bonuses

Unpaid wage unpaid overtime attorney njIn New Jersey, all workers have the right to fair wages and proper compensation for overtime work. The Fair Labor Standards Act legalized standards for minimum wage, overtime pay, work hours and child labor standards for all employees in the private sector, as well as in Federal, State and Local governments.

In New Jersey, workers are also protected by Department of Labor and Workforce Development Regulations, which all employers must comply with by law.

If your employer denies you your federal and state rights by making you work overtime without proper compensation, withholding pay, intentionally misclassifying you to avoid paying you the correct rate, or failing to pay earned commissions or bonuses, you may be able to take legal action to recover unpaid wages.

Common Wage and Hour Violations

Sadly, some unscrupulous employers try to cheat workers because they believe their employees are ignorant of their rights under federal and state wage and hour laws. Keefe Law Firm has helped workers recover unpaid wages due to an employer’s practice of:

  • Unpaid overtime 
  • Unpaid setup time
  • Denying benefits
  • Withholding tips
  • Failing to pay sales commissions
  • Failing to pay bonuses
  • Not adhering to New Jersey’s minimum wage rules
  • Failing to pay according to prevailing wage rates
  • Unauthorized or fraudulent paycheck deductions
  • Time shaving
  • Unpaid vacation, holiday or PTO days
  • Intentional misclassification

If you feel that you have been cheated out of your lawful pay or other form of compensation that you are entitled to, an experienced, skilled wage and hour lawyer can help.

In many situations, our legal team proceeds with recovering your rightful wages by:

  • Investigating your claim and documenting all relevant facts and circumstances
  • Informing the employer in writing and requesting payment based on the facts  
  • Filing a claim with the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development
  • Filing a lawsuit with your employer if a fair and just agreement cannot be reached

New Jersey Wage and Hour FAQs

What is New Jersey’s minimum wage?

Effective July 1, 2019, New Jersey’s minimum wage increased to $10 per hour thanks to a bill signed into law by Governor Phil Murphy on February 4, 2019. This legislation will gradually raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2024.  There are some exceptions; you can read more about New Jersey’s minimum wage increase in Paul A. DiGiorgio’s recent article.

What does prevailing wage mean?

Prevailing wage laws exist throughout the U.S. These laws mandate that employers pay workers no less than the amount that union workers are being paid for similar work in a particular location. 

The state of New Jersey enacted prevailing wage laws to safeguard the efficiency and general well being of laborers and workers on public works projects and “to protect them as well as their employers from the effects of serious and unfair competition resulting from wage levels detrimental to efficiency and well-being.” The NJ Department of Workforce and Labor Development requires that, for every public construction-related public works project, the prevailing amount must be included in the project contract. The contract is required to state that workers on a given job will not be paid less than the prevailing wage rate. There are also prevailing wage rates for state building service workers.

What is the difference between non-exempt and exempt employees?

The two basic classifications of employees are “exempt employees” and “non-exempt employees.” The major difference is that exempt employees are not entitled to overtime pay as guaranteed by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).  In general, exempt employees are paid a salary as opposed to being paid hourly, and typically perform executive, administrative or professional duties. 

A “non-exempt”  employee is entitled to overtime pay through the FLSA.  Employers are required to pay time and a half of the employee’s regular rate of pay when they work more than 40 hours in a given pay week. So for example, if a worker’s hourly rate is $20, their overtime rate would be $30. In general, non-exempt employees earning less than $455 per week, or $23,660 per year, are guaranteed overtime pay

How does overtime pay work?

By Federal law, employers must pay non-exempt employees one and one half times their normal rate of hourly pay if they work more than 40 hours in one work week. Employers that do not comply with this right are in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act and may be required to pay an employee back wages for what they are owed.

Unfortunately, some employers attempt to get around correctly paying for overtime by:

  • Miscalculating hourly wages
  • Excluding the number of hours an employee has worked from home or off the clock
  • Misclassifying employees as “exempt” from overtime
  • Calculating overtime pay by averaging hours over a two-week period instead of a 40-hour workweek

All of these practices are in violation of federal and New Jersey wage and hour laws.

I rely heavily on tips. What are my rights?

The Fair Labor Standards Act defines tipped employees as those who regularly receive more than $30 per month in tips. Tips are the property of the employee and cannot be used by an employer for any reason to circumvent its obligation to pay New Jersey’s minimum wage.

Tipped employees such as restaurant workers, hair stylists and others have different rules that employers must follow: 

  • Tips must equal minimum wage or more. Effective July 1, 2019 New Jersey’s minimum wage is $10/hour.
  • Under the FLSA, tipped employees must be paid a minimum of $2.13 per hour. If your total earnings do not amount to New Jersey’s hourly minimum wage, your employer is legally required to compensate you for the difference in your paycheck.
  • Tip pooling:  Some employers try to force tipped-employees to share a portion of their pooled tips with non-tipped employees in an attempt to reduce payroll. This practice is illegal, and may bring a tip-based employee’s hourly pay below minimum wage.

What are New Jersey’s Wage and Pay Laws?

New Jersey’s wage laws are governed by the State of New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development.  The state’s labor laws explicitly define workers’ rights pertaining to minimum wage, sick leave, how employees are to be paid, workplace labor standards, child labor and more.  For detailed information on your rights, visit the Department of Labor website.

If you believe your rights are being violated by your employer, contact Keefe Law Firm for a free and confidential consultation.

What is the Fair Labor Standards Act?

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938  established wage and overtime rights for employees and the regulations for pay, hours worked, record keeping and child labor that employers must follow.

The FLSA applies to full-time and part-time workers in the private sector and in federal, state and local governments. It governs the terms and conditions of how employers must treat their workers, including:

  • Paying employees at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour
  • Paying employees an overtime pay rate of one and one half times their normal hourly wage
  • Requiring employers to keep records of all hours an employee has worked
  • Establishing the difference between exempt and non-exempt workers
  • Establishing the difference between an employee and an independent contractor

All employees that hold positions covered by the mandatory overtime provisions of the FLSA are covered. This includes any employee who is eligible for overtime pay after working 40 hours in one work week. If an employer violates the FLSA regulations, they can be held legally liable for wages owed.

How much time do I have to file a wage and hour violation lawsuit?

In general, an employee may file a claim up to 2 years from the date of the wage violation.  If the violation is “willful”, the employee has up to 3 years to file a claim.

Why is employee misclassification important?

Employee misclassification is one of the most widespread violations of wage and hour regulations. Misclassification happens when an employer incorrectly and/or intentionally categorizes a worker in a manner that disqualifies them from things like overtime pay, paid time off, sick leave or commissions. Sometimes an employer will classify a worker into one of the below groups in order to avoid paying overtime, the minimum wage or a prevailing wage:

  • Independent contractor–an independent contractor is not directly employed by a company and is only hired to perform a specific job, usually for a temporary timeframe. Employers will misclassify workers as independent contractors because they are not protected by New Jersey Department of Labor regulations or the FLSA in the same manner as direct employees.
  • Exempt employees– are not eligible for overtime pay.  An employer will often misclassify an employee as being exempt by increasing the employee’s job duties or giving them a managerial title without increasing their pay. Exempt employees are not entitled to overtime pay.  To have exempt status, an employee must meet three main requirements:
    1. Be paid on a Salary Basis 
    2. Earn at least $23,660 per year
    3. Have high-level responsibilities

Who is not entitled to overtime pay?

Some employees are exempt from the overtime pay provisions, some from both the minimum wage and overtime pay provisions and some from the child labor provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Exemptions are narrowly construed against the employer asserting them. The ultimate burden of supporting the actual application of an exemption rests on the employer.  Exemptions are typically applied on an individual workweek basis. Employees performing exempt and non-exempt duties in the same workweek are normally not exempt in that workweek. The most commonly misapplied exempt classifications are those for executive and administrative employees because specific “Job Duties” tests must be met.

Executive Job Duties Test:

  1.       Regularly supervise two or more other employees;
  2.       Has management as the primary duty of the position; and
  3.       Has some genuine input into the job status of other employees (such as hiring,
    promotions, or assignments).

 Administrative Job Duties Test:

Office or non-manual work, which is

  1.     directly related to management or general business operations of the employer      or the employer’s customers, and
  2.     a primary component of which involves the exercise of independent judgment        and discretion about matters of significance.

  The following are some of the other more common exemptions:

Sales – Commissioned sales employees of retail or service establishments are exempt from overtime if more than half of the employee’s earnings come from commissions and the employee averages at least one and one-half times the minimum wage for each hour worked.

Computer Professionals – Certain computer professionals paid at least $27.63 per hour are exempt from the overtime provisions of the FLSA.

Motor Carrier – Drivers, driver’s helpers, loaders and mechanics are exempt from the overtime pay provisions of the FLSA if employed by a motor carrier, and if the employee’s duties affect the safety of operation of the vehicles in the transportation of passengers or property in interstate or foreign commerce.

Farmers – Farmworkers employed on small farms are exempt from both the minimum wage and overtime pay provisions of the FLSA. Young workers employed on small farms, with parental consent, are also exempt from the child labor provisions of the FLSA. Other farmworkers are exempt from the FLSA’s overtime provisions.

Automobile Dealerships – Salesmen, partsmen and mechanics employed by automobile dealerships are exempt from the overtime pay provisions of the FLSA.

Seasonal and Recreational – Employees employed by certain seasonal and recreational establishments are exempt from both the minimum wage and overtime pay provisions of the FLSA. 

How do I file a wage, salary or compensation dispute claim in New Jersey?

The New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development (NJDOL) oversees wage and hour law violations such as:

  • Minimum wage violations
  • Overtime violations
  • Unpaid wages
  • Unauthorized deductions
  • Unpaid bonuses
  • Unpaid commissions

Do You Have Unpaid Wages, Unpaid Overtime Or Another Wage Dispute? Contact Keefe Law Firm’s Wage and Hour Attorneys Today

If you believe your employer has withheld your wages, paid you less than New Jersey’s minimum wage, failed to compensate you for overtime or failed to pay your commissions or bonuses, Keefe Law Firm may be able to help you get the compensation you are entitled to by filing a claim with the NJDOL as a first step. 

Our services are provided on a contingency fee basis, which means you only have to pay us if we recover damages for your claim.