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New Jersey Employment Law Blog

Revision Of The Standards For Wage And Hour Liability

The Fair Labor Standards Act is a Federal statute that, in essence, and put simply, requires that all workers of the 50 states and territories who are not "exempt" from being entitled to overtime pay (for work in excess of 40 hours in a given week) must get that pay. It's a long statute and there are a lot of twists and turns, but that, in essence, is it.

For a long time, the "big three" exemptions for wage and hour were: professionals, administrators, and executives. These terms, in essence, are fairly obvious. If you were any one of these three things (defined by the statute), then your employer could ask you to work more than 40 hours and not give you overtime. Most people who were properly one of these three things were probably on salary anyway. 

What The Fourth Of July Really Means For America

The 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence were, admittedly, not terribly representative of today's America. All were male. All were white. All were (at least publically) straight. All were Christian. All were "rich" by the standards of the day. And 41 of them owned slaves.

They weren't perfect, either as individuals or as a group. But they had a perfect idea. Against this idea, they pledged "Our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor." That comes directly from the Declaration of Independence. In response, a significant army was fielded by King George to defend his honor (at least as he perceived it) against this assault from "rebels" who were "treasonous." The British soldiers committed some significant atrocities, among them hanging people to the point of unconsciousness, then reviving them and then disemboweling them.

The signing of the Declaration wasn't, in other words, an act undertaken lightly. Clearly, the idea was important. 

"New Jersey Civil Rights attorney discusses medical errors are the leading preventable cause of death in the United States"

Johns Hopkins, one of the most respected medical research institutions in the Country, estimates in a recent study that more than 250,000 Americans die each year from medical mistakes. To put this number in perspective, on the Center for Disease Control's official list, that ranks medical errors just behind heart disease and cancer, which each took about 600,000 lives in 2014. It puts medical mistakes in front of respiratory diseases, which claimed about 150,000 deaths. To put it in further perspective, automobile accidents only claim about 30,000 lives each year in comparison with those other causes.

Firing Females Because the Wife of Employer is Jealous?

The article below, speaking to a case thrown out by a NY Court in which a female employee was fired by business owner's wife because wife thought the plaintiff was "too attractive," is another nail in the coffin of "gender stereotype" discrimination. This firm remains committed the belief that discriminating against someone because they display "gender" characteristics of which an employer doesn't approve - a doctrine which is supported by both Federal and New Jersey law - should be illegal and should be an appropriate avenue of redress for a harmed worker.Why should the "attractive" woman lose her job because the bosses' wife doesn't subjectively approve of the measure and mode of the plaintiff's "attractiveness quotient?" Must the attractive woman working for an insecure owner's wife "ugly up" to keep her job if she's otherwise professional in her looks and behavior?

The Profitability Of Discrimination

A number of Southern states have recently made a point to codify the right of individuals and businesses to discriminate against those who offend their religious sensibilities. These laws mirror earlier attempts to ban same-sex marriage and, before that, to ban things like desegregation and interracial marriage. In the past, corporate America would either have supported these laws or at the very least maintained silence. Lately, more and more companies have spoken out against these blatant attempts to discriminate.

While it would be wonderful to imagine a world where this represented the growth of decency, kindness and morality among business leaders, it is just as likely a response to the changing profitability of discrimination. In seeking the repeal of a North Carolina law forbidding municipalities from extending protection against discrimination beyond state guidelines, Bank of America declared the law "bad for our employees and bad for business." When a company can expect to lose quality employees and customers by discriminating or tolerating discrimination, it is more likely to act. 

Distracted Walking Could Become A Crime

Cell phones and cars are not a safe combination. Of course, that's true even when the cell phone is being used by someone crossing the street on foot, rather than driving a car. The ongoing fight to reduce the number of fatal pedestrian accidents has led one New Jersey assemblywoman to propose a bill banning the use of cell phones without hands-free devices while walking on public sidewalks. Under the bill, offenders would be subject to a fine of up to $50. Repeat offenders would face as much as 15 days in jail.

Other jurisdictions across the country have attempted to prevent pedestrians from walking while distracted, but as of yet none of the legislative efforts have been successful. The measure is unlikely to succeed here, either, but it may help bring attention to a growing problem. A survey of children between the ages of 13 and 18 found that 40 percent had been hit or nearly hit by a vehicle while walking. Of that 40 percent, nearly half were either listening to music, texting or talking on the phone. 

Pay Discrimination Follows Women Wherever They Go

One of the excuses used by many to ignore the problem of the wage gap between male and female workers was that the fields "preferred" by women simply paid less. If men chose to be doctors and women chose to be nurses, it was natural that men would be paid more. This was and is utter nonsense, of course. That viewpoint ignores the sexist double standards and barriers to entry that kept women out of these traditionally male occupations. It also obscures the simple reality that when men and women do the same work, in the same field, women still get paid less. New research is helping to accurately portray the ways in which women are discriminated against in employment.

The study, conducted at Cornell University, demonstrates that when women take on jobs that traditionally went to men, the pay for those jobs decreases. The work that was valued when men did it is suddenly devalued simply because women have entered the field. The research took into account the experience, education, skills, race and geography of the workers. All these things being equal, pay went down when women entered the field. 

Employee Rights Violated By Social Media Policy

Many employers believe they have unfettered rights to control their employees when it comes to social media. A Twitter or Facebook post that criticizes an employer can draw swift retribution. While employees are not able to say anything they like without consequences, there are protected topics. A social media policy that does not account for activities protected by federal law is not enforceable. An administrative judge recently ruled that the social media policy used by Chipotle was not allowed under federal law. The ruling followed several memoranda released by the National Labor Relations Board instructing employers how to avoid running afoul of the law in promoting a social media policy.

Employees have the right to discuss working conditions. That discussion can include criticism of wages, working conditions and other employment practices. The Tweet that inspired the Chipotle case specifically listed the wages earned by Chipotle employees. The Chipotle social media policy banned any social media statements that were disparaging or false. After the worker was fired, he launched a complaint with the help of the Pennsylvania Workers Organizing Committee. His complaint was upheld and the judge ordered Chipotle to pay him for lost wages. 

More Pedestrians Killed In 2015

Since 2005, fatal accidents involving pedestrians have been on the rise. While motor vehicle deaths were declining, people on foot were not so lucky. According to preliminary numbers for 2015, the trend continued. A recent report issued by the Governors Highway Safety Association claims that pedestrian deaths in 2015 rose by 10 percent over the figures from 2014. While the numbers are still preliminary, it appears that pedestrian deaths will make up a greater percentage of traffic deaths than they have in a quarter century.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data concerning pedestrian deaths contains several important pieces of information. Roughly three out of every four fatal pedestrian accidents occur at night. Alcohol is found in the bloodstream of approximately one-third of fatal pedestrian accident victims. Drunk drivers are responsible for 15 percent of deadly pedestrian accidents. 

Harassment, Racism And Wage Violations At Restaurants

Minimum wage laws have mandated a certain level of remuneration for decades. Unfortunately, from the earliest incarnations of those laws, workers were entitled to a minimum gained through wages or through tips. The result is that in tipped occupations, employers are allowed to pay less, often substantially less, than in other fields. Restaurant workers in tipped positions feel the brunt of this in several ways. Some people believe that it is past time to end the tipping exception and maintain one minimum wage for all employees. Several states have already enacted laws to do this.

The law requires employers to make sure that employees are paid at least the minimum wage. If tips are insufficient to cover the difference, employers are supposed to pay the rest. In reality, many employers do not take the necessary steps to make up the difference. The Department of Labor says that there is an 84 percent violation rate when it comes to employers making sure tip earners get at least the full minimum wage.