States across the country have enacted laws in recent years that carry serious penalties for employers who violate wage and hour laws and shortchange employees for their time and work. The New Jersey Wage Theft Law, which is just over a year old, is one of the strongest such laws in the U.S.
Among the provisions of the law that helps employees is the six-year statute of limitations for bringing a wage and hour lawsuit. Further, the amount of money that can be sought in these lawsuits is considerable.
Plaintiffs can seek up to triple the amount they were shorted by an employer, and each shortage is considered a separate violation, which means they can be fined for multiple offenses. If a business illegally held back $1,000 a month for a year from an employee ($12,000), they could have to pay them $36,000. If an employer is guilty of shortchanging multiple employees over several years and faces a class action suit, it could cost them many thousands (and possibly into the millions) of dollars in awards and fines.
Note that if a business can prove that they discovered or were told of the issue and paid employees the money they were owed within 30 days of notice, they are considered to have acted in good faith.
Businesses aren’t off the hook if they use a temp staffing agency or other company that provides contracted employees. They can be held liable, along with that company, for any wage and hour violations the staffing company committed.
Many employees are afraid to report wage and hour violations out of fear that they’ll lose their job or be penalized in some other way. The Wage Theft Act presumes that any adverse action taken against an employee within 90 days of reporting a wage and hour violation is an act of retaliation. This can allow employees to seek triple damages for the retaliation. It can also result in fines and a requirement that any employee who was fired for reporting the violation be reinstated to their position.
If you believe you have a case against a current or former employer, it’s wise to talk with an experienced attorney. They can help you protect your rights and seek the compensation you deserve.