In New Jersey, the law ensures that employees are compensated fairly through a series of provisions known as wage and hour laws.
These laws provide employees with the right to receive fair pay by establishing a minimum wage or prevailing wage for some jobs and by providing rules for overtime pay. Employers who infringe on employee rights by failing to pay the appropriate wage are in violation of the law and can be held legally responsible.
The minimum wage in New Jersey was changed beginning in 2014 to $8.25 per hour. Under the current law, the minimum wage will be adjusted each year based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI) in order to account for inflation. This means that most employees are entitled to receive at least $8.25 per hour this year, and that the minimum wage may change in future years. Although there are certain exceptions for tipped workers and workers under the age of 18, the minimum wage rule applies to almost all employees.
In addition to the minimum wage, certain workers are protected by the New Jersey Prevailing Wage Act. This law requires that workers in certain career fields be paid an alternative minimum wage based on the type of work they perform and the location in which they are employed. The specific wage that an employee is entitled to is determined by the Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development. Employees can locate the applicable rate of pay by consulting a wage table.
Most employees are entitled to overtime pay for work completed in excess of forty hours per week. Covered employees are entitled to an overtime rate of one and one half times their base pay rate. Overtime provisions apply to both salary and wage employees. Not all employees qualify for overtime, however. For instance, certain professionals, executives, and administrators are considered “exempt,” and therefore, may not be eligible for overtime pay.
If your employer violated your rights, or you think you are not being treated fairly, because you have not been paid appropriately, you can take legal action to seek recovery. The New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development’s Division of Wage and Hour Compliance handles wage and hour disputes. By filing a complaint with this agency, you can seek recovery from your employer for unfair wages or unpaid overtime. When bringing this type of complaint, it is important that you understand the process as well as your rights. An experienced employment attorney can explain the process to you and assist in filing your claim. An employment lawyer can also help you determine the pay you are entitled and fight on your behalf to make sure that you paid fairly.
Commission Payment Modifications
Most workers earn a salary or wage based on the number of hours worked or amount of work that they perform. Others, particularly those in sales positions, may be paid commissions in addition to or in place of a traditional wage or salary. Although the structure and rules regarding commission payment plans are different than those that control wage and salary payments, there are laws and regulations that govern how commission structures and payments are made.
Commission payment plans are often defined by contract, wherein the employee and employer agree to the percentage or rate at which a commission will be paid. A contract may also stipulate the frequency of payments or manner in which the payments are made. At times, these agreements can be modified, either because the business decides that a modification is needed or in response to employee request.
An employer must meet certain legal obligations when changing the terms of a commission payment plan. A New Jersey appellate court recently issued a ruling that protects employees against having these plans unfairly changed without notice. InTemple-Inland, Inc. v. Kenneth Dee, the court ruled that an employer can be held liable if it does not inform its commission-based employees about a change in a commission payment plan before it is made. If an employer fails to provide proper notice to employees, the employer may be required to pay commissions earned during the transitional period. The court acknowledged that a modification of commission payments might, in some cases, violate an employment contract, and in those cases, the employer would be liable for damages arising from the breach. This particular case, however, did not involve a breach of an employment contract.
Regardless of whether you earn a wage, salary, commission, or combination of these types of income, your employer must respect your rights as an employee. A violation of your employment rights may give you a legal cause of action and form the basis of a lawsuit. If your rights have been violated or if your employer has unfairly changed your payment structure, an experienced employment attorney can help protect your rights and advance you.