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Dress Codes and Docking of Pay

When I examine employee handbooks as part of my legal review of such documents, a frequently seen policy involves dress codes and the inclusion of possible employee sanctions for not following such a policy.  Most policies I review inform employees that if they fail to follow the dress code they will be sent home and not be paid for the time it takes them to return to work.  Are such policies legal?  The answer may surprise you.

As such policies apply to non-exempt hourly employees, not paying for the time spent away from work while bringing their attire in line with company policies is indeed a legally appropriate sanction.  Why? Because by their very status, hourly non-exempt employees get paid for only actual time worked.  Thus, if a Company wants to dock the offending employee wages as a sanction for violating a dress code policy, there is no violation of wage and hour laws: the employee simply clocks out and clocks back in when returning in the proper work attire and does not get paid for the time he/she is not working.

On the other hand, for exempt employees, these same rules do not apply.  Exempt employees get paid a weekly or bi-weekly salary, and so long as the employee performs services at any juncture of the work day the employee is entitled to be paid the daily portion of his salary for that day.  So, if the exempt employee is found to have violated a dress code policy after already performing work on a particular day, the employee must be paid that entire day’s salary even if sent home and told to return in suitable clothing.

Moreover, be aware that there are very strict rules for deducting any monies from the salary of an exempt employee, and the allowable grounds for making such deductions typically involve the violation of serious workplace rules.  Now, here is another legal catch-even if the employer has grounds for sanctioning an exempt employee by withholding a portion of his/her salary as punishment, any deduction that is for less than a full day’s pay is illegal.  Thus, in our hypothetical, not only would a deduction from pay  not be warranted because dress code violations are usually not serious enough to meet wage and hour requirements, but deducting pay for only the brief time out of work to correct the problem also does not satisfy the full day deduction rule.  Thus, while even exempt employees can be sanctioned for violating dress codes, docking pay is not going to be one of those options in most situations.

As this example shows, sometimes wage and hour rules can create unexpected traps that an employer can easily fall into, and not realize there has been a legal violation.  Thus, anytime your business is thinking about making disciplinary deductions from pay, make sure you consult with an experienced employment lawyer first to avoid such unexpected wage and hour pitfalls.

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5 New Year’s Resolutions For Your Workplace In 2019

With 2019 around the corner, employers are presented with a wonderful opportunity to review internal policies/procedures and hopefully help avoid future workplace legal problems. Here are five suggested New Year’s Workplace Resolutions for 2019.

  1. When was the last time your employee handbook was reviewed and updated? Policies and procedures need to be revised periodically to keep current with ongoing changes in the law, especially in a place like New Jersey, where it is frequently the case that new laws and decisions impose new legal requirements. In that regard, remember you now need a policy regarding New Jersey’s Paid Sick Time Law that went into effect this past October! Therefore, 2019 presents a great opportunity for employers to review handbook polices and bring them up to speed with any recent legal changes that impact your workplace. Alternatively, if you do not have one yet, the upcoming new year of 2019 provides a wonderful chance for your workplace to reap the benefit of having all relevant workplace policies stored in one collective document.
  2. When was the last time your job descriptions were reviewed and updated? Job descriptions are very important, especially in gauging compliance with mandated accommodation requirements for persons with disabilities under both federal and state discrimination laws. Ask yourself: do your job descriptions accurately reflect what an employee actually does in their jobs today? Because courts often rely on how an employer defines the essential job functions of an employment position in assessing disability discrimination and failure to accommodate issues, it is important that employers maintain updated job descriptions so there will be a point of reference if any issues arise as to what the essential functions of a job position are for accommodation purposes. Moreover, just like employee handbooks, if you do not have job descriptions today, the beginning of the upcoming year is a good time to commence preparing them.
  3. When was the last time you conducted anti-harassment training? With the Me Too Movement and other recent societal trends in this area, employers must be proactive in ensuring that workplaces are free of harassment and discrimination, and conducting yearly training in this area is an excellent preventative tool for ensuring your anti-harassment and anti-discrimination polices are enforced and followed.
  4. When was the last time you conducted an audit of your payroll practices? A good part of my practice this year has been representing clients in state and federal wage and hour audit proceedings so it is good to be proactive in aggressively monitoring payroll practices to ensure audits do not find problems with such practices. One of the chief concerns to examine here is ensuring that all your employees are properly classified as exempt versus non-exempt employees for purposes of their proper compensation under federal and state wage and hour laws. It is always a good idea for an employer to do a quick review of employment classifications each year in case changes need to be made based upon any modifications in employee job responsibilities. In addition, please remember that, as of January 1 of each year, New Jersey’s minimum wage rate might be adjusted upwardly automatically based upon any increase in the consumer price index as of September 30 of the prior year. Thus, it is important that you properly keep track of any upcoming changes in New Jersey’s minimum wage.
  5. Are you properly performing background checks on current and prospective employees? Remember, there are strict requirements concerning how such background checks are conducted under not only the Fair Credit Reporting Act but also under relevant federal employment discrimination laws such as Title VII. Just a few years ago, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued a detailed compliance guidance on how the results of a background check can be utilized in assessing a person’s suitability for employment, so it is important that all background check policies meet these requirements. Similarly, if you as an employer conduct your own background checks, and still request that employees and prospective employees provide private password protected information for their social media sites as part of that examination, such a practice is illegal under New Jersey Law. Therefore, it is critical that background check policies be modified to eliminate any potential violation of this limitation under New Jersey Law.

In sum, the upcoming new year provides a wonderful opportunity for employers to proactively evaluate internal policies and procedures to make 2019 a legally problem free year in your workplace. An experienced labor and employment attorney is a valuable asset in conducting these types of internal policy examinations to effectively minimize possible legal exposures.

Happy Holidays and Healthy New Year to All!!

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Love is in the Air, But Should It Be in the Workplace?

A question that I frequently receive in my practice is:  should a company implement any sort of dating policy for employees, or even go so far as to actually ban such relationships totally among its employees?

As hard as it might be to believe, it was not long ago when such policies prohibiting dating amongst employees were common in many workplaces. Over the years, with the recognition that employees are spending so much of their time at work today, employers began to acknowledge the practicalities that romantic relationships can often develop between employees spending so much of their waking hours around one another. Ultimately, most employers came to accept the realities of such workplace romances.

At their root, these prohibitory policies were designed to control (in some way) the potential damage that could occur to the “business” relationship between such employees if the romantic relationship fizzled and ended.  Such policies were also designed to eliminate the always thorny situation of a supervisor becoming romantically involved with a co-worker over whom there was supervisory responsibilities.  In today’s current business climate where we are seeing an increase in sexual harassment complaints, should companies bring those discarded anti-dating polices back as a further means of preventing possible harassment claims in the workplace?

As I frequently advise my clients, the difficulties of enforcing anti-dating rules in the workplace today make me question the wisdom of implementing an outright ban on such dating.  Nevertheless, employers are wise to adopt a policy alerting employees to the fact that, while workplace relationships are not prohibited, the company’s anti- harassment policy still applies to protect employees when romantic relationships are pursued by a co-worker that are unwelcome.  Employees should likewise be reminded that the right to say “no” is to be respected, and when it is not, there will be consequences under the Company’s anti-harassment policy. Finally, it is also beneficial for employers to let employees know that, in cases where there is a supervised-supervisor romantic relationship, the supervised employee will be reassigned to another supervisor in order to eliminate potential claims by other supervised employees of favoritism and the possible negative fallout and tension that could happen when the romantic relationship ends.

While it might be hard to stop romantic relationships from happening in the workforce, implementation of a sound dating policy can assist in controlling any negative impact that such relationships could have on your business.

One Strike and You’re Out-Single Racial Slur Can Create Hostile Work Environment

Everyone knows, or hopefully should know, that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees from encountering a hostile work environment due to their race. What many may not know is that there is another federal law that also prohibits racial discrimination in the form of hostile work environment. That statute, §1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, was the subject of a significant recent decision from the Third Circuit Court of Appeals that addressed what legal elements must be established in order to prove a hostile work environment claim under § 1981. Employers are wise to heed the edicts of this decision because it has expanded the potential situations where a racially hostile work environment can be established under this law.

In Castleberry v. STI Group, No. 16-3131 (3d Cir. July 14, 2017), two African-American male employees worked as general laborers for the defendant company. They claimed that while working on a fence-removal project, their supervisor threatened to fire them if they “n….r-rigged” the fence. This incident was confirmed by other coworkers and reported thereafter by the employees to a superior. Two weeks later, the two African-American employees were fired without explanation, but were subsequently rehired, only to be fired again, this time because of a “lack of work.”

The African-American employees subsequently filed suit alleging harassment, discrimination, and retaliation in violation of § 1981. The trial court dismissed the employees’ harassment claim because it determined that the facts as pled in the plaintiffs’ complaint did not support a finding that the harassment was “pervasive and regular.” This ruling was not at all surprising because ordinarily in order to prove a hostile work environment under current law, more than a single incident is required to give rise to a potential legal claim. That is how most courts, including in this judicial circuit, have read the requirement of “severe and pervasive.”

An appeal was subsequently taken to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. The Court determined that it was error for the complaint to have been dismissed. Clarifying its past decisions in this area, the Court held that, in some circumstances, a single incident can be severe enough to contaminate a workplace environment in violation of the requirements of § 1981. In order for a single incident to serve as grounds for a claim of hostile work environment under this law, the Third Circuit explained that the incident must be so “extreme to amount to a change in the terms and conditions of employment.” Thus, not every incident will be enough to meet this new standard, though the decision unfortunately does not provide much clarity at all as to what such circumstances must be to ultimately meet this standard.

The instant decision certainly creates a precarious situation for employers. While ultimate success in each case of this kind will often depend heavily upon the facts giving rise to the case, this decision certainly provides a strong incentive for employers to continue to implement strong anti-harassment policies and training so that everyone understands that zero tolerance of any racially intolerant or similar inappropriate comments is the rule in your workplace.  Otherwise, you could learn the hard way as the employer in this case did that there are certain pernicious comments that should never be uttered in any workplace.0

Paid Break or Flex Time?

When is an employee entitled to be paid for taking a break at work? That was the question that the Third Circuit Court of Appeals had to address in the recent case of Secretary United States Department of Labor v. American Future Systems, Inc., No. 16-2685 (October 13, 2017). In this case, the Third Circuit had to decide whether employees of the defendant company were entitled under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) to be paid for periods of time of 20 minutes or less when they were relieved of all work-related duties. In a significant victory for employees, the Third Circuit said that these employees were indeed entitled to such wage payments.

Defendant employed sales representatives who were paid a base hourly wage and qualified for bonuses and additional compensation based upon work they performed while logged on to their work computers. In 2009, defendant eliminated its existing policy allowing such sales reps to take two 15 minute breaks per day. Under the company’s new policy, employees were allowed to determine the frequency, length and time and duration of the breaks. While employees could take breaks for any reason, defendant only paid such sales rep employees for breaks lasting under 90 seconds.

The United States Secretary of Labor (“DOL”) brought suit against the defendant claiming the lack of payment for any breaks that were less than 20 minutes long violated the FLSA. This was based upon the DOL’s long-standing bright line rule that all breaks taken by employees for under 20 minutes required payment under the FLSA. The defendant attempted to justify its practice of nonpayment by claiming that the time that the sales reps stopped working was not a break in the legal sense but “flex time.” The District Court rejected this distinction, and gave deference to the DOL’s interpretation of what was required by the FLSA in its long-standing rule requiring payment for all breaks under 20 minutes long. The Third Circuit also ultimately rejected defendant’s argument as well, and likewise enforced the DOL’s long-standing rule on the payment requirement for breaks under 20 minutes.

The Third Circuit’s decision is a friendly reminder about the dangers of not knowing all the nuances of wage and hour legal requirements. The DOL has issued a number of regulations that provide guidance to employers on how that agency interprets the wage and hour payment requirements of the FLSA, with one of those being the 20 minute break compensation rule at issue in this case. In this case, not only did this employer have to pay for the actual wages required for all uncompensated employee 20 minute break periods, but the court also awarded liquidated damages. Liquidated damages consist of payment of double the amount of the wages that are owed. Before incurring such costly expenses, it is best to make sure that all novel compensation policies are legally sound and will withstand any possible future scrutiny from the DOL.

CEPA Found Not to Apply to Volunteer Firefighter

As many employers already know, New Jersey has one of the broadest whistleblower protection laws in the United States.  In the past, the Conscientious Employee Protection Act (“CEPA”) has been expansively interpreted to provide wide ranging protections to not only employees who engage in whistleblowing activities but also independent contractors, who while technically not employees, are nevertheless covered by the law because such persons frequently are performing similar types of services for companies.

One issue that has never been addressed in any reported New Jersey state court decision is whether volunteers who perform services for companies are also entitled (like independent contractors) to the protections afforded by CEPA for engaging in whistleblowing activities.  That has now changed and, surprisingly, the result was not what one would have expected given the way that CEPA’s coverage has been construed expansively in the past by New Jersey’s Courts.

In Sauter v. Colts Neck Volunteer Fire Co., No. 2, A-0354-15T1, 2017 WL 4020461 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. Sept. 13, 2017), Plaintiff was a long time member of the Defendant’s all volunteer fire department.  Along with serving as a volunteer in Defendant’s fire department, Plaintiff was also a full time employee of the Monmouth County’s Sheriff’s Office.  Defendant’s fire fighters were all unpaid volunteers.  However, firefighters could participate in a Volunteer Length of Service Program (“LOSAP”), which provided a small amount of compensation to volunteers, ranging from $400 to $1150 a year, depending on length of service.  Members could access these funds only after they were no longer with the fire company.  Along with providing the opportunity to participate in the LOSAP, volunteer fire fighters were also provided with workers’ compensation coverage for any injuries occurring while providing services to the fire company.

Plaintiff was a twenty (20) year member of the fire department.  During that time, Plaintiff had accumulated $5,871 in LOSAP benefits. In 2013, the members of the fire department voted to terminate Plaintiff’s membership in the company.  As the court said in its decision, the Plaintiff’s twenty (20) years of membership was less than harmonious.  According to the court’s decision, the members of the department terminated Plaintiff because he was “abusive’, “angry”, and “belligerent.” Plaintiff in his lawsuit challenged his termination by claiming that it was wrongful under CEPA because he had previously engaged in certain whistleblowing activities that included challenging the filing of an insurance claim by the department because he thought it was fraudulent. Plaintiff likewise had complained that fire department members were wrongfully dumping their personal garbage in a fire department dumpster as well.

This was not the first CEPA action that Plaintiff filed against the Department. Earlier, in 2004, Plaintiff filed a previous CEPA claim after his brother (a fire company supervisor who actually voted for Plaintiff’s dismissal) was denied a contract to renovate the fire company’s hall.  That claim was ultimately settled, but even after the settlement, Plaintiff continued to complain that he was not provided with all the counsel fees that he thought were due to him.

In its reported decision, the Appellate Court held that the dismissal of Plaintiff’s CEPA claim in this case by the Trial Judge was appropriate because CEPA did not apply to persons who are strictly volunteers and not employees.  Relying upon the language of the CEPA statute itself, the court concluded that only persons who receive actual financial remuneration for the services that they perform are entitled to CEPA’s protections because the law was designed to protect such persons from suffering any adverse actions that would affect their continuing financial livelihood.  The Plaintiff had argued that the funds received through the LOSAP program were sufficient remuneration to make him an employee under CEPA. The court rejected this argument, finding that the minimal amount received did not approximate the monetary value of the services that firefighters actually provided to the Department.  The court also rejected Plaintiff’s additional request that CEPA’s coverage be expanded to include volunteers so they too could fall within CEPA’s protections just like independent contractors.  The court rejected this request to expand CEPA’s protections declaring that doing so would not serve CEPA’s goal of protecting a person’s livelihood from risk because of whistleblowing activities.

While technically this case did not involve an employer or employment type relationship, the decision can only be considered a positive one for employers because the court could have continued to expansively interpret CEPA and bring within its scope many other service providers that employers might retain who are not technically employees (as occurred with independent contractors) and are right now not covered by the law.  The case also serves as a continuing warning to employers that they must rigorously adhere to CEPA’s requirements because retaliation lawsuits remain commonplace and are still very popular claims being brought today in the New Jersey courts.  In this case alone, we see that this was the second CEPA claim that this Plaintiff filed against the very same fire department.  Thus, any type of perceived retaliation will no doubt result in similar types of lawsuits, so it is important, now more so than ever, that employers make employment related decisions on legitimate grounds, for legitimate business reasons, and not to retaliate against an employee for past whistleblowing conduct.

A Lesson From France

Your public entity employer supplies i-Phones and other computer related technologies to keep your employees connected to the office even after normal business hours. It is Saturday night, and you need an urgent answer to a pressing question. You email one of your low level managers.  He hears the “bing’ on his i-Phone, and sees your email. You are anticipating an immediate response from the employee. But, instead, the employee emails that he will respond to the question when he is back at work on Monday.

Is this a sufficient answer? In all likelihood, not in the USA for any employer, public or private, but what about France?  Well, thanks to a recently passed law there, known affectionately as the “Right to Disconnect Law,” French employees have the right to tell their employers that a response can wait until Monday.  The new law requires French employers with more than 50 employees to commence drafting polices that limit work-related technology usage outside the office.

Now, would a law like that have any chance of passage here in the USA?  Likely not, but employers of all kinds are wise to understand the significant legal issues that arise from employee use of work related technologies while performing employment services on such devices outside of the workplace and after the normal work day.

In our example, if the employee actually responded, would the time spent crafting the answer constitute compensable work time for the employee in having to respond immediately? It is indeed possible, and that would depend on whether the employee is exempt or non-exempt.  If non-exempt, the employee is required to be paid for all time spent in providing work related services. So, if that is the case here, the next question would be, how does the employee track such time, and does this public employer have policies in place directing how this non-office work time is to be reported for wage and hour purposes?  And, if the extra time causes this employee to exceed 40 hours of work during this work week, are you the public employer obligated to pay an overtime rate for this excess time worked?

Unfortunately, most employers (both public and private entities) lack the necessary policies to address these kinds of questions, and that is the key lesson all employers in the USA can learn from this recent French law.  Employers here in this country should, like their brethren in France are now required to do by law, begin formulating policies on how situations like the above will be addressed so you can avoid potential legal problems that can arise in these situations.  Whenever hourly non-exempt employees perform any kind of work for an employer’s benefit, federal and state wage and hour laws require payment of compensation for that time, and if the time worked results in an over 40 hour work week, then overtime obligations could arise. Just as importantly, the employer needs to ensure that such time gets tracked properly, and having polices in place that alert employees on their obligation to report, and on how to actually report such time, are a must if employers want to avoid potential wage and hour problems in this area.  No one wants a wage and hour investigator showing up at their doors, and it only takes one complaint from just one employee in this type of circumstance to raise the possibility of such an occurrence, even if you are a public employer.

In sum, while technology is a wonderful tool for today’s business world, it can cause you unexpected legal peril in these kinds of situations, and staying ahead of such dangers with well-crafted legal policies is the best way for all employers to avoid such lurking problems.

Employment and The Use of Medical Marijuana

New Jersey’s medical marijuana program went into effect in 2007.  Since that time, more than 11,000 persons have been issued ID cards under The Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act (“Act’) permitting them to use medicinal marijuana and to obtain the drug at one of the state’s five (5) marijuana dispensaries.

One of the issues that has perplexed New Jersey employers since the time of the Act’s passage has been whether an employer can either fire, or refuse to hire, a medicinal marijuana user if the employer has a drug free workplace policy, or if hiring or continued employment would violate other commitments to provide a drug free workplace under related federal laws. This issue arises because the Act is silent as to whether medicinal marijuana users have job protection because of that status. While the Act states expressly that employers have no duty to accommodate the use of medical marijuana while on the job, the law also states very vaguely that users cannot be denied certain unspecified rights or privileges because of their user status. Because of this uncertainty, employees are now resorting to the courts to determine what their employment rights are under the Act, and New Jersey Courts are finally getting the chance to weigh in on this controversial issue.

In a recent decision issued by the New Jersey Federal Court in February, 2017, a wrongful discharge claim brought by a medicinal marijuana user was dismissed on the grounds that the complaint failed to state a legally cognizable claim under New Jersey state law.  In Barrett v. Robert Half Corporation, Civil Action No. 15-6245 (CCC), plaintiff was an accountant who also was a medical marijuana user.  He did so to relieve back pain suffered as a result of an auto accident.  Plaintiff was tested for drug use as part of the employer’s testing program and was subsequently terminated.  In filing his suit, the employee claimed that the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination was violated because the employer was notified that the plaintiff was in the medical marijuana program and therefore had a duty to accommodate the drug use as treatment for his back problem.  The court held that merely notifying an employer about an employee’s participation in the state medical marijuana program does not constitute a request for accommodation of the underlying condition that allows for the medicinal use of marijuana.  As a result, no accommodation duty was violated by the employer.

The Barrett case is one of a handful of cases that are now working their way through the New Jersey courts.  As more decisions are handed down, employers should have a better idea of what their rights and duties are in terms of addressing medicinal marijuana issues in the workplace.  As these cases are being processed through New Jersey’s courts, employers should also keep a close eye on what is similarly happening in the New Jersey legislature.  Proposed legislation now pending before both the Senate and Assembly would make it unlawful for an employer to take any adverse employment action against any employee enrolled in the New Jersey Medical Marijuana program.  Because of these continuing developments, employers facing issues with employee use of medical marijuana should seek sound legal advice whenever contemplating possible adverse employment action against such employees.

Third Circuit Clarifies Standard for Establishing Age Discrimination Claims

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”) is a federal law that prohibits employment discrimination against employees over the age of 40.  One of the lingering questions under the law has been what happens when an employer adopts an employment policy that, while seemingly benefiting a group of employees over 40 years old, also simultaneously adversely affects other employees much older than 40.  For years, in these kinds of situations, federal appeals courts have held that there can never be such a thing as subgroup age discrimination under the ADEA, meaning that in the above example, the older subgroup of harmed employees could not claim age discrimination.  Recently, however, in Karlo v. Pittsburgh Glass Works, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 406 (3rd Cir. January 10, 2017), the federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals gave new life to this legal theory, and held that such a claim of age discrimination is now indeed cognizable under the ADEA in subgroup situations.

The legal question that the Third Circuit had to decide in Karlo was whether a subgroup disparate impact claim could be brought under the ADEA. Disparate impact is a way of proving discrimination where a facially neutral employment policy has an adverse impact on a class of employees protected under the discrimination laws. In Karlo, a group of employees over 50 years of age claimed that their layoff from respondent was improper age discrimination because a disproportionate number of employees over 50 years old were laid off while persons who were over 40 but under 50 years old were not. Relying upon past United States Supreme Court precedent holding that the ADEA prohibits all forms of age discrimination, not just age discrimination that happens to affect only persons who are over 40 years old age, the Third Circuit held in Karlo that disparate impact claims can be brought to prove age discrimination under the ADEA, even when the group that is benefited by the subject employer’s practice happens to be over 40 years old.

The Third Circuit’s decision has now created a “split” amongst how federal appeals courts have ruled on this issue. This means that the present decisional law on this issue is not uniform throughout the country. When this happens, the United States Supreme Court will often have to decide the issue to create the necessary uniformity on the standard to be applied by the federal courts. Therefore, until that eventually happens, employers must be more cognizant of how sometimes even a facially neutral employment policy that ostensibly makes no wrongful distinctions amongst employees may result in age discrimination because the policy harms older employees in a disproportionate way compared to other older employees. Because of this possibility, employers must not only make sure that their employment policies not expressly discriminate against older employees, but the impact of how such policies may apply and affect other older employees must also be evaluated so that such policies do not unintentionally discriminate against members of that protected class.

Because disparate impact claims are complicated and often difficult to recognize, employers are wise to seek sound advice from an experienced labor and employment lawyer whenever there is suspicion or concern that a neutral employment policy is having a harmful impact on a group of employees protected under federal or state anti- discrimination laws.

Beware of Upcoming New Jersey Minimum Wage Increase

As previously reported in this newsletter, a New Jersey Constitutional Amendment that was approved in 2013 requires that the state’s minimum wage rate be adjusted annually, effective January 1st of each year, by any annual increase in the Consumer Price Index (“CPI”) calculated by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (“BLS”).  The CPI is the nation’s leading measure of inflation.  From August 2013 through August 2014, the CPI increased by 1.59%, meaning that there must now be made a corresponding 1.59% increase in New Jersey’s hourly minimum wage rate.  Accordingly, starting January 1, 2015, the New Jersey minimum wage will increase from $8.25 per hour to $8.38 in accordance with the requirements of this New Jersey Constitutional Amendment.

In light of this upcoming change in January 2015, employers must insure that payroll systems are properly adjusted to reflect the new minimum wage rate.  Because January 1 falls on a Thursday in 2015, the increase in the minimum wage rate may pose an administrative burden for some employers since the required increase might fall during the middle of a pay period.  For this reason, it may be wise for employers to implement the higher minimum wage before the start of the pay period that includes January 1st if you as an employer would find yourself dealing with this possible administrative snafu in your payroll system.

This is the first, but most likely not the last, time that the minimum wage here in New Jersey will automatically be increased thanks to the Constitutional Amendment and its legal mandate requiring rate increases due to increases in the CPI.  Accordingly, it is wise for employers to keep a close eye during the upcoming year on this important economic indicator to track whether another automatic increase of the minimum wage will be forthcoming in January 2016.

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