All workers have a fundamental right to be compensated fairly for the labor they provide. Unfortunately, minimum wage violations are common in New Jersey, leaving countless workers underpaid and exploited. If you believe you have been a victim of wage theft, turn to Castronovo & McKinney, LLC.
With comprehensive knowledge of the federal and state minimum wage laws, we stand firmly beside workers, advocating for their rights and ensuring just compensation. Contact us today to speak with an experienced employment lawyer.
Federal Minimum Wage Protections
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) provides the baseline for wage and hour standards in the U.S. At its core, the FLSA mandates employers to compensate workers with a set minimum wage. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, though it is essential to note that individual states can and often do set higher rates.
There are, however, specific exemptions and exceptions under the FLSA. Some employees, based on their job type and duties, might not be entitled to the federal minimum wage. This includes certain administrative, professional, and executive employees, among others. Understanding these exemptions is crucial to determining if your rights are being violated.
New Jersey Minimum Wage Laws
The state of New Jersey has shown considerable progress over the years concerning minimum wage standards, evident in its consistent efforts to raise the state minimum wage. Currently, New Jersey’s minimum wage stands at $14.13 per hour, notably higher than the federal rate; it is slated to rise to $15 in 2024 for most employees. This rate applies to most businesses and workers within the state. However, there are exceptions based on the size of the business and the nature of the employment.
For example, seasonal and small employers have until 2026 to pay their workers $15 per hour (a small employer is one that employs an average of at least one but not more than 50 employees during the calendar year) Also, agricultural workers fall under a separate minimum wage timetable and have until 2027 to reach the $15/hour minimum wage. While many enjoy the benefits of the state’s elevated wage, we can help determine exactly where you stand under state law.
Common Minimum Wage Violations
Some employers attempt to sidestep the minimum wage laws in several ways:
- Off-the-clock work – This violation occurs when employers require or allow employees to perform tasks outside of their recorded working hours without compensation. Examples might include setting up a workstation before clocking in, attending mandatory meetings outside of regular hours, or completing paperwork after clocking out. This often means employees end up working additional hours for which they are not paid, thus decreasing their effective hourly wage below the mandated minimum.
- Tip misappropriation – In professions where tips form a substantial part of the income, like in the restaurant industry, some employers might unlawfully withhold or take a larger portion of pooled tips than allowed. They might also fail to ensure that workers earn at least the minimum wage when tips are factored in, or they might improperly include non-tipped employees in tip pools.
- Employee misclassification – One of the craftier methods employers use to circumvent wage laws is misclassifying employees. By labeling workers as independent contractors, managers, or other exempt statuses, employers can avoid paying the minimum wage or providing benefits. It’s essential to understand that a title alone doesn’t determine exemption; the nature of the job duties performed and the actual employment relationship play a crucial role.
- Failure to pay overtime – The law is clear that eligible employees should receive 1.5 times their standard pay rate for any hours worked over 40 in a single workweek. Some employers might try to average hours over two weeks or misclassify workers as exempt from overtime to avoid these extra payments. This not only affects the minimum effective hourly rate but also robs employees of rightful earnings for extended work hours.
By understanding these common minimum wage violations, workers can better equip themselves to identify and hold employers accountable for their unfair and illegal wage practices.
What to Do if You Suspect a Violation
Having your employment rights compromised can be distressing; however, it’s crucial to be proactive and address potential wage violations by taking the following steps:
- Document Everything
Before confronting your employer or seeking legal action, start by gathering evidence. This could be in the form of pay stubs, time cards, emails, text messages, or even notes about verbal conversations. Make a habit of regularly saving your pay stubs or taking pictures of them, and note any discrepancies or missing hours. Also document any communication related to your work hours, tasks performed off the clock, or any other relevant issues. Such records will be instrumental in making a strong case.
- Discuss with Coworkers
Talk to your colleagues to see if they have experienced similar issues. There’s strength in numbers, and if multiple employees come forward with similar concerns, it can bolster the credibility of your claims. Sharing experiences can also help in understanding the magnitude and patterns of the suspected violations within the workplace.
- Know Your Rights
Familiarize yourself with both federal and New Jersey state wage laws. The U.S. Department of Labor and New Jersey’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development offer valuable resources. By understanding the specifics of these laws, you can have a clearer picture of how they might have been violated and what remedies are available to you.
- Approach Your Employer
In some cases, the wage violation might be due to an oversight or miscommunication. Before taking legal action, consider discussing your concerns with your supervisor or HR department.
When approaching your employer, be calm, factual, and organized. Present your evidence and express your concerns clearly.
- Seek Legal Counsel
If discussions with your employer don’t yield satisfactory results, or if you feel uncomfortable approaching them, it’s time to consult Castronovo & McKinney. We can provide guidance tailored to your specific situation, help you understand the nuances of the law, choose the best course of action (e.g. arbitration or litigation), and advocate for your rights.
Remember, you’re not alone in this fight. Many workers face wage violations, and with the right steps, they have successfully secured their rightful compensation. The key lies in being proactive, informed, and strategic.
Why Choose Us?
At Castronovo & McKinney, we bring to bear a deep understanding of both federal and state wage laws and exceptional negotiating and trial skills. Over the years, we have successfully represented numerous clients, ensuring they receive the compensation owed to them, whether through negotiated settlements, individual lawsuits, or class actions.
When you partner with us, we will tailor our strategy to your specific situation. By examining all documentation, communication records, and evidence, we can weigh the strength of your claim and recommend the best approach moving forward. Often, a resolution can be achieved without resorting to litigation. Our firm can approach your employer on your behalf, presenting evidence and articulating your claims with the goal of reaching an amicable settlement.
Should your case require legal action, our seasoned attorneys are prepared to represent you aggressively in court. With a rich history in employment law litigation, our team combines thorough preparation with assertive courtroom representation, ensuring your case is presented compellingly. Trust us to right this wrong and help you receive the compensation you deserve.
Protecting New Jersey Workers Against Minimum Wage Violations
Minimum wage violations undermine the essence of fair labor practices. Take action by working with the esteemed team at Castronovo & McKinney. Contact us today for consultation.