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New Jersey businesses now face criminal penalties for failing to pay the wages owed to their employees thanks to legislation signed into law today by Acting Govern Shelia Oliver.  NJBIA is concerned, however, the law would subject employers to criminal penalties for what are honest mistakes attributable to the legal complexities of New Jersey’s wage and hour law.

“NJBIA fully supports the strong penalization of employers who knowingly and willfully cheat their employees through failing to pay wages, salary or benefits they are entitled to,” said Mike Wallace, NJBIA vice president of Government Affairs. “This law, as signed, however, criminalizes inadvertent wage-and-hour violations and will also hold New Jersey businesses responsible for the actions of their contractors.”

The law says employers who engage in a “pattern of wage non-payment” could be charged with a third-degree crime punishable by three to five years in prison and up to $15,000 in fines. The law also makes employers liable for the wage and hour violations of their contractors and client employers, and unnecessarily broadens the definition of retaliation.

“Employers are now at risk of massive penalties and possibly years of jail time if they lose in court on reasonably disputable points. Also, as a result of this law, they now assume the risk of treble-damage class actions for unknown violations of a vendor or contractor they hire.”

The Association is seeking legislation to correct some of the provisions of the law that could wind up snaring employers who are acting in good faith but make honest mistakes.

“We look forward to working with the Legislature and the Administration to ensure employers that operate honestly and in good faith are protected from punitive damages for inadvertent errors,” Wallace said.