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The New Jersey Business & Industry Association testified against legislation Thursday that would require employers to retain a wide range of service employees for a period of 90 days following a change of ownership in their service contracts.  

The Senate Labor Committee took the unusual step of advancing the bill “without recommendation” by a 3-2 vote. Several committee members expressed concern about the criminal penalties contained in the bill, including possible jail time for employers, and expressed hope the legislation would be amended before it goes before the full Senate for a vote.

As the bill stands now, employers could be jailed between 10 and 90 days for their second violation of the mandate. But because each day an employee is laid off counts as a separate violation, employers could be jailed if a covered service worker is out of a job for two days. 
In testimony to the committee, NJBIA Vice President of Government Affairs Alexis Bailey said employers should have “the choice to hire who they see fit based on financial need, job performance, experience or other factors in order to make sound business decisions.”  
“There are already safeguards in place to protect workers in the event that they lose their job, such as collective bargaining, unemployment insurance and the state and federal mass layoff protections that can protect employees during a change of service contract if they are not offered employment by a new contractor,” Bailey said. 
“Additionally, service contract vendors already have the opportunity and often do freely choose to interview and hire the workers employed under previous contracts if it would be the most advantageous for their business.”    
Under the legislation, service employees include any non-managerial or professional employee who works 16 hours or more per week in connection with the care or maintenance of a building or property.    
This includes, but is not limited to security, front desk, maintenance, grounds maintenance, stationary fireman, elevator operators, window cleaners and janitorial service staff. At airports, it includes passenger-related security services, cargo related and ramp services, in-terminal and passenger handling and cleaning services. In schools, it includes food service workers.   
Employers and facilities captured under this legislation include multi-family residential buildings with more than 50 units, commercial centers or office buildings that are more than 100,000 square feet, as well as primary, secondary schools or tertiary schools.    
It includes cultural centers such as museums, convention centers, arenas, performance halls; industrial sites; pharmaceutical labs; airports; train stations; state courts; and warehouse and distribution centers.   
“These broad definitions make the impact of this mandate so expansive that it will unnecessarily impact employers in large swaths of the state economy,” Bailey said.  
The bill follows the recent enactment of other laws mandating the retention of employees in both the hotel and healthcare industries.  
“The Legislature must not continue this trend of striking at-will employment and mandating collective bargaining through statute,” Bailey said.   
“Legislation such as this usurps managerial decision making, increasing the regulatory burden of doing business and harming our overall competitiveness in New Jersey.”    
To see Bailey’s written testimony, click here.