Labor and Employment Law Overview: New Jersey

Labor and Employment Law Overview requirements for other states

Federal law and guidance on this subject should be reviewed together with this section.

Author: XpertHR Editorial Team

Summary

  • New Jersey law prohibits an employer from discriminating and retaliating against employees in a variety of protected classes. Employers must also provide pregnancy accommodations, allow wage discussions and protect whistleblowers. See EEO, Diversity and Employee Relations.
  • New Jersey permits preemployment background checks and prohibits most employers from asking criminal history questions on job applications. See Recruiting and Hiring.
  • In New Jersey, there are requirements relating to the minimum wage, overtime, breastfeeding breaks and child labor. See Wage and Hour.
  • New Jersey has laws that relate to employee pay and benefits, including health care continuation, pay frequency, wage deductions, temporary disability benefits and family leave insurance. See Pay and Benefits.
  • Under New Jersey law, employees are entitled to certain leaves or time off, including family leave, military leave, jury duty leave, emergency responder leave and domestic violence leave. See Time Off and Leaves of Absence.
  • New Jersey prohibits smoking in the workplace and using a cell phone while driving. See Health and Safety.
  • When employment ends, New Jersey employers must comply with applicable final pay and mass layoff notification requirements. See Organizational Exit.

Introduction to Employment Law in New Jersey

 New Jersey has many laws that provide greater protections to employees than federal law, including pregnancy accommodation rights, a higher minimum wage, health care continuation coverage obligations for smaller employers and family leave insurance, but generally follows federal law with respect to topics such as overtime pay, jury duty leave and military leave.

Select New Jersey employment requirements are summarized below to help an employer understand the range of employment laws affecting the employer-employee relationship in the state. An employer must comply with both federal and state law.

An employer also must comply with applicable municipal law obligations affecting the employment relationship, in addition to complying with state and federal requirements.

EEO, Diversity and Employee Relations

Key New Jersey requirements impacting EEO, diversity and employee relations are:

Fair Employment Practices

The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD or LAD) prohibits discrimination and harassment in employment on the basis of the following:

  • Race;
  • Creed;
  • Color;
  • National origin;
  • Age;
  • Ancestry;
  • Nationality;
  • Marital, domestic partnership or civil union status;
  • Sex;
  • Pregnancy (including breastfeeding);
  • Gender identity or expression;
  • Disability;
  • Liability for military service;
  • Affectional or sexual orientation;
  • Atypical hereditary cellular or blood trait; and
  • Genetic information (including the refusal to submit to genetic testing).

The LAD also prohibits retaliation against an employee for:

  • Filing a discrimination complaint;
  • Participating or testifying in any proceedings; or
  • Opposing any acts forbidden under the LAD.

The LAD applies to all public and private employers, regardless of size.

Pregnancy Accommodation

An employer must provide reasonable accommodations for an employee who is currently pregnant, is recovering from childbirth, is breastfeeding or has a medical condition related to pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding. The employee does not need to establish that she is disabled by pregnancy or a pregnancy-related condition in order to receive a workplace accommodation. Examples of reasonable accommodations include:

  • Bathroom breaks;
  • Breaks to drink more water or the ability to carry a water bottle;
  • Periodic rest periods;
  • Modified job duties or work schedule;
  • A temporary transfer so that the employee can avoid strenuous or hazardous work; and
  • Assistance with manual labor; and
  • Reasonable, daily break time and a suitable location (that is private, close to the work area and not a toilet stall) for the employee to express breast milk for her infant child.

Equal Pay

It is an unlawful employment practice for an employer to pay compensation, including benefits, to employees of a class protected by the Law Against Discrimination that is less than the rate paid to employees outside the class for substantially similar work when viewed as a composite of skill, effort and responsibility. An employer may not reduce an employee's rate of compensation in order to comply with the law.

An employer may pay a different rate of compensation if it demonstrates that the differential is made according to a seniority system or merit system or the employer demonstrates that:

  • The differential is based on one or more legitimate, bona fide factors, such as training, education or experience, or the quantity or quality of production;
  • The factors are not based on, and do not perpetuate, a differential in compensation based on any protected characteristic;
  • Each factor is applied reasonably;
  • One or more of the factors account for the entire wage differential; and
  • The factors are job-related and based on a legitimate business necessity.

Discussion of Wages

The LAD permits employees to ask current or former co-workers about their compensation, among other things, for the purposes of investigating or taking legal action regarding discriminatory pay practices. In addition, employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who request such information.

Whistleblower Protections

New Jersey's Conscientious Employee Protection Act prohibits retaliation against an employee who:

  • Blows the whistle, or who threatens to do so, with regard to improper, deceptive, harmful or illegal conduct by his or her employer, or conduct that relates to improper patient care by a health care provider;
  • Provides information to or testifies in a government agency hearing or investigation; or
  • Objects to or refuses to participate in any activity, policy or practice that the employee reasonably believes:
    • Is a violation of law;
    • Is harmful or deceptive; or
    • Relates to improper patient care by a health care provider.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on EEO, diversity and employee relations practices in New Jersey can be found in the New Jersey Employee Handbook Table of Contents, Disabilities (ADA): New Jersey, EEO - Discrimination: New Jersey, EEO - Harassment: New Jersey, EEO - Retaliation: New Jersey, Employee Discipline: New Jersey, New Jersey Workplace Labor and Employment Law Posters and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in New Jersey? Federal requirements can be found in Disabilities (ADA): Federal, EEO - Discrimination: Federal, EEO - Harassment: Federal, EEO - Retaliation: Federal and Employee Discipline: Federal.

Recruiting and Hiring

Key New Jersey requirements impacting recruiting and hiring are:

Credit Checks

A New Jersey employer may obtain a job applicant's credit report if it has notified the applicant in writing beforehand that the report may be used for employment purposes and the applicant has consented.

Criminal Checks

A New Jersey employer may inquire about a job applicant's conviction record if prior convictions are reasonably related to the position. An employer may not inquire into prior arrests.

Ban the Box

New Jersey's Opportunity to Compete Act prohibits employers with 15 or more employees from making any oral or written inquiry about an applicant's criminal record during the initial employment application process, which ends when the employer has conducted a first interview. This measure is known as a "ban the box" law.

In addition, the Act prohibits a covered employer from publishing a job advertisement stating that the employer will not consider applicants who have been arrested or convicted of one or more crimes.

Limited exceptions are provided for positions in law enforcement, corrections, the judiciary or emergency management.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on recruiting and hiring practices in New Jersey can be found in Preemployment Screening and Testing: New Jersey and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in New Jersey? Federal requirements can be found in Preemployment Screening and Testing: Federal.

Wage and Hour

Key New Jersey requirements impacting wages and hours are:

Minimum Wage

New Jersey's statutory minimum wage is $8.60 per hour. Certain employees are exempt from the minimum wage law, and a separate minimum wage rate exists for some employees (e.g., tipped employees).

Overtime

Nonexempt employees generally must be paid overtime at the rate of one and one-half times the employee's regular hourly rate for hours worked in excess of 40 hours in any workweek.

Breastfeeding Breaks

An employer must provide reasonable break time each day and a suitable location for an employee to express breast milk for her infant child.

Child Labor

Child labor laws in New Jersey restrict the occupations in which minors may be employed and the number of hours and times during which they may work.

New Jersey has generally adopted the federal standards, but also has additional standards.

Minors who are 16 or 17 years of age are not allowed to operate or assist in the operation of dangerous machinery (e.g., punch presses, power-driven woodworking machinery) and may not perform hazardous job duties (e.g., setting up, repairing or cleaning circular or band saws, guillotine shears and shearing machines; transporting payroll cash or checks outside of the employer's premises). Other restrictions apply.

Minors under the age of 16 are prohibited from working in additional occupations, on top of the restrictions that apply to minors who are 16 or 17 years old.

Generally, minors under 18 years of age may not work more than six consecutive days in any one week or more than 40 hours in any one week.

Minors between 16 and 18 years of age may work before 6:00 a.m. or after 11:00 p.m. when school is not in session if they have written permission from their parents or legal guardian. They may work in a seasonal amusement or restaurant occupation after 11:00 p.m. and following 12:01 a.m. of the next day under certain circumstances.

Minors under 16 years of age may not work before 7:00 a.m. or after 7:00 p.m. of any day. However, they may work in a restaurant, supermarket or other retail establishment until 9 p.m. from the last day of the school year until Labor Day if they have written permission from a parent or legal guardian.

Minors under the age of 18 must be given a 30-minute meal period after five consecutive hours of work.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on wage and hour practices in New Jersey can be found in the New Jersey Employee Handbook Table of Contents, Minimum Wage: New Jersey, Overtime: New Jersey, Hours Worked: New Jersey, Child Labor: New Jersey and New Jersey Workplace Labor and Employment Law Posters. Federal requirements can be found in Minimum Wage: Federal, Overtime: Federal, Hours Worked: Federal and Child Labor: Federal.

Pay and Benefits

Key New Jersey requirements impacting pay and benefits are:

Health Care Continuation

New Jersey's health care continuation law generally mirrors the federal Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) with regard to qualifying events, timelines and premium amounts. However, the New Jersey law applies to employers with between two and 50 employees. Therefore, New Jersey employers with between 20 and 50 employees must comply with both state and federal law.

New Jersey law differs from federal law in a number of ways, including:

  • Covering domestic partners and civil union partners;
  • Requiring coverage for medical plans only (and not dental and/or vision plans);
  • Not requiring continuation coverage for a former employee's spouse when the employee becomes eligible for Medicare;
  • Requiring continuation coverage to be elected within 30 days; and
  • Requiring the initial premium to be paid within 30 days of the election for continuation coverage.

Payment of Wages

Employers in New Jersey must pay the full amount of wages due to employees in cash, or with checks that can be cashed in full at banks where arrangements have been made for cashing without difficulty. The employer must pay any check cashing fees charged by the bank.

An employer may pay wages by direct deposit or electronic paycards if certain conditions are met, including the employee providing written consent.

Pay Frequency

Nonexempt employees must receive their full wages due at least semimonthly, on regular paydays designated in advance.

Exempt employees must paid in full at least once each calendar month on a regularly established schedule.

If a regular payday falls on a day when the business is closed, employees must be paid on the immediately preceding workday, unless a collective bargaining agreement provides otherwise.

Pay Statements

All New Jersey employers must furnish each employee with a statement of deductions made from his or her wages for each pay period in which deductions are made.

Wage Deductions

Deductions may be made from employees' wages if required by state or federal law or court order, with the employee's written authorization or for other permissible reasons, including but not limited to child support withholding, creditor garnishments and tax levies.

Temporary Disability Insurance

All employers subject to the state unemployment insurance law are required to provide temporary disability benefits (TDB) to an employee who sustains a nonwork-related sickness or injury that results in the employee's inability to perform his or her regular job duties. TDB benefits are paid for by a mandatory payroll tax to which both the employer and employee contribute.

Employees may receive up to 26 weeks of TDB. The weekly benefit amount is two-thirds of the employee's average weekly wage, up to a maximum amount set by the state each year.

Family Leave Insurance

All employees of covered employers (i.e., employers subject to the state unemployment insurance law) are eligible for up to six weeks of family leave insurance (FLI) benefits to bond with a newborn child or a newly adopted child or to care for an ill family member.

FLI is similar to temporary disability benefits (TDB). However, unlike TDB, FLI is paid for by a mandatory payroll tax on employees only, and an employer may require an employee to use up to two weeks of paid leave to offset the weekly FLI benefit.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on pay and benefits practices in New Jersey can be found in the New Jersey Employee Handbook Table of Contents, Insurance and Disability Benefits: New Jersey, Health Care Continuation (COBRA): New Jersey, Payment of Wages: New Jersey, New Jersey Workplace Labor and Employment Law Posters and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in New Jersey? Federal requirements can be found in Insurance and Disability Benefits: Federal, Health Care Continuation (COBRA): Federal and Payment of Wages: Federal.

Time Off and Leaves of Absence

Key New Jersey requirements impacting time off and leaves of absence include:

Family and Medical Leave

The New Jersey Family Leave Act (NJFLA) requires employers with 50 or more employees to allow eligible employees to take an unpaid leave of absence for up to 12 weeks in a 24-month period for the following reasons:

  • The birth or adoption of a child; or
  • To care for a family member (i.e., child, parent, spouse or civil union partner) with a serious health condition.

Other Time Off Requirements Affecting New Jersey Employers

In addition to the NJFLA, a New Jersey employer is also required to comply with other leave and time off laws, such as:

  • Military leave;
  • Jury duty leave;
  • Emergency responder leave; and
  • Domestic violence leave (covering employers with 25 or more employees).

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on time off and leave of absence practices in New Jersey can be found in the New Jersey Employee Handbook Table of Contents, FMLA: New Jersey, Jury Duty: New Jersey, USERRA: New Jersey, Other Leaves: New Jersey, New Jersey Workplace Labor and Employment Law Posters and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in New Jersey? Federal requirements can be found in FMLA: Federal, Jury Duty: Federal, USERRA: Federal and Other Leaves: Federal.

Health and Safety

Key New Jersey requirements impacting health and safety are:

Smoke-Free Workplace

The New Jersey Smoke-Free Air Act prohibits smoking, including e-cigarettes, in all indoor public places or workplaces.

Safe Driving Practices

It is against the law for anyone to talk on their cell phone or text while driving in the State of New Jersey.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on health and safety practices in New Jersey can be found in the New Jersey Employee Handbook Table of Contents, Employee Health: New Jersey, HR and Workplace Safety: New Jersey, New Jersey Workplace Labor and Employment Law Posters and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in New Jersey? Federal requirements can be found in Employee Health: Federal and HR and Workplace Safety (OSHA Compliance): Federal.

Organizational Exit

Key New Jersey requirements impacting organizational exit are:

Final Pay

If an employee is terminated, suspended as a result of a labor dispute or laid off, or if an employee resigns or leaves employment for any reason, the employer must pay the employee all wages due by the regular payday for the pay period in which the termination, suspension or cessation of employment took place.

An employer has an additional 10 days to pay if an employee is suspended as a result of a labor dispute involving employees who make up the payroll.

An employer may pay all wages owed to a deceased employee, upon proper demand on the employer and in the absence of actual notice of the pendency of probate proceedings, in the following order to the employee's:

  • Surviving spouse;
  • Children age 18 and older in equal shares, or to the guardian of children under age 18;
  • Father and mother or survivor; and
  • Siblings; or
  • The person who pays the funeral expenses.

Mass Layoff Notifications

Under the Millville Dallas Airmotive Plant Job Loss Notification Act, an employer that has been in business for longer than three years and that employs 100 or more full-time employees must provide at least 60 days' notice or as much notice as is required by the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, whichever is longer, under the following circumstances:

  • A transfer or termination of operations during any continuous 30-day period that results in the termination of 50 or more full-time employees;
  • A mass layoff that results in the termination of 500 or more full-time employees during any 30-day period; and
  • A mass layoff that results in the termination of 50 or more full-time employees representing at least one-third of the full-time employees at the establishment during any 30-day period.

Notice must be provided to:

  • Each employee to be terminated and the union or collective bargaining agent, if applicable;
  • The chief elected official of the municipality; and
  • The Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development.

The law requires an employer to provide one week of severance pay for every year of service to an employee who does not receive proper notification.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on organizational exit practices in New Jersey can be found in Payment of Wages: New Jersey, Involuntary Terminations: New Jersey and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in New Jersey? Federal requirements can be found in Payment of Wages: Federal and Involuntary Terminations: Federal.