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May 17, 2024 | EmploymentLitigation

What To Do When Your Employer Refuses To Pay You in New Jersey?

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Author(s)
Ellie Sanders

Associate Attorney

Unpaid wages are any earned compensation that an employer fails to pay its employees for work performed.  In New Jersey, this may include regular wages, overtime pay, minimum wage violations, commissions, bonuses, and accrued vacation, PTO, or sick leave.  When employers withhold or delay payment of these wages, it can lead to legal consequences for the employer.  If you work in New Jersey, and your employer is refusing to pay you, consulting with an experienced employment attorney can help defend your rights.

Unpaid Wage Laws in New Jersey

New Jersey has one of the strictest wage laws of all the states in the country.  The New Jersey Wage Theft Act of 2019 broadened employee’s rights under the state’s Wage Payment Law, the Wage and Hour Law, and the Wage Collection Law.  These laws protects employees’ rights concerning minimum wage, overtime, and other wage-related issues like paid-time-off and other benefits.  Failure to comply with these regulations can result in significant penalties for the employer.

What is the Statute of Limitations on Unpaid Wage Claims?

Generally, the statute of limitations for unpaid wage claims is six years from the date the wages were due.  However, in cases involving willful violations by the employer, the statute of limitations may be extended to ten years.  If your employer has previously violated the New Jersey Wage Theft Act, and your employer is now withholding your earned wages, that can be enough to support “willfulness” and potentially extend your time to bring a claim to the ten-year maximum.  Still, it’s crucial for employees to act promptly if they believe their wages have been unlawfully withheld to ensure they can pursue legal remedies within the applicable time frame.

What Steps Should an Employee Take to Recover Unpaid Wages?

If you believe you are owed unpaid wages by your employer, there are several steps you can take to pursue recovery:

  1. Document your hours worked, pay rates, and any unpaid compensation owed to you. Keep detailed records of any communications with your employer regarding your wages, including emails, timesheets, and pay stubs.
  2. Next, consider discussing the issue directly with your employer and attempting to resolve the matter amicably.
  3. If your informal discussions are unsuccessful, consider hiring an employment attorney. An employment attorney can negotiate on your behalf with your employer.  Usually, the first step the attorney might take is sending a demand letter, and if negotiations break down, the attorney can assist by initiating a lawsuit.

What Damages Can an Employee Receive if they Successfully Sue their Employer?

For New Jersey employees who sue their employer for unpaid wages and succeed, the employee may be entitled to:

  • Triple damages for the unpaid wages (meaning, the amount of unpaid wages owed plus liquidated damages of up to 200% of the amount of unpaid wages); and
  • Attorneys’ fees and costs.

An employer may have a good faith defense against triple damages, but this defense is only available if: (1) the violation was a first offense, (2) was made in good faith, (3) the employer admits the violation and (4) pays the employee the amounts due within 30 days.

If a New Jersey employer knowingly violates the state’s Wage Theft Act, the employer also faces fines and potential jail time.

What Else Should Employees Know?

New Jersey law prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for asserting their rights to recover unpaid wages.  Retaliation can take various forms, including termination, demotion, harassment, or other adverse actions like revoking severance (if it was promised to you).  If you experience retaliation for seeking unpaid wages, you may have grounds for additional legal claims against your employer.

Conclusion

If you’re facing unpaid wage issues in New Jersey, it’s crucial to seek guidance from an experienced employment attorney who understands state wage laws and can advocate for your rights.  Reach out to a member of our team to discuss the best next step to recover your earned compensation.

 

 

Photo by Alexander Grey on Unsplash
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