NJBIA recently conducted a virtual Employment & Labor Policy Committee meeting, where updates were shared regarding the Temporary Workers Bill of Rights and its ongoing legal case, alongside discussions on emerging federal and state labor legislations.
Steven Harz, Partner at Javerbaum Wurgaft Hicks Kahn Wikstrom & Sinins P.C., and Amy Vazquez, Vice President of Employers Association of New Jersey, served as guest speakers.
Harz highlighted how the enactment of the Temporary Workers Bill of Rights has brought forth the challenges foreseen during its legislative discussions. This legislation, intended to protect temporary workers, has unfortunately led to severe repercussions for the temporary staffing industry thus far and could cause potential closures and relocations of agencies.
Harz explained that the basis of the litigation brought against the law by NJBIA, the New Jersey Staffing Alliance and the American Staffing Association’s against the state of New Jersey contends that the statute’s impact on interstate commerce raises constitutional issues as states lack authority to regulate businesses in other states, hindering cross-state price negotiations.
Moreover, the mandates on record keeping, banning transportation fees, and wage requirements have introduced operational challenges and confidentiality concerns for the business community.
Amidst these challenges, legal action has been taken in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey. The argument presented contends that the statute breaches the Dormant Commerce Clause of the US Constitution, limiting out-of-state businesses from negotiating prices, and raises concerns regarding due process and equal protection under the 14th Amendment.
Despite its intention to provide clarity, the statute can easily be misinterpreted or not fully comprehended as it is unconstitutionally vague.
Despite an attempt to suspend the bill through an injunction, the court’s decision did not deem the statute unconstitutional, prompting an appeal to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals by plaintiffs, including NJBIA, the New Jersey Staffing Alliance, and the American Staffing Association, seeking a reversal of the decision and the suspension of the statute.
Following Harz, Amy Vazquez provided essential updates on notable state unemployment changes and two significant federal provisions that should be on an employer’s radar.
Recent amendments to the Unemployment Compensation Law bring notable changes for employers in New Jersey. Effective from July 31, 2023, a new reporting requirement mandates New Jersey employers to electronically report separation information directly to the Division of Unemployment, aiming to counter unemployment fraud by enhancing benefit eligibility evaluations.
To accommodate this, the Department of Labor and Workforce Development is building the required reporting infrastructure and encourages employers to establish employer access accounts if they don’t have one already for when the system is ready for use.
Also, penalties for failing to provide benefit-related information upon request have been intensified, with fines now reaching up to $500 per day for bad actors that willfully refuse to furnish necessary information to NJDOL.
In terms of federal legislation, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, effective since the end of June, introduces stronger safeguards for pregnant employees. Employers with 15 or more employees are required to offer reasonable accommodations for pregnancy-related limitations, ensuring workplace adjustments unless undue hardship is proven.
Meanwhile, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) introduced a revised I-9 Form for verifying identity and employment authorization of US-hired individuals.
The updated form, accessible online, is immediately deployable, with a transition grace period for current users of the prior form until October 31, 2023.
This revision streamlines the form’s content and introduces the big new option of remote document verification for certain employers who must be enrolled in the e-verify program to use it.
Upon the meeting’s conclusion, Alexis Bailey, Vice President of Government Affairs at NJBIA, delivered updates pertaining to two pieces of legislation concerning the labor workforce.
Recently, S2389, the Service Employee Retention Bill, was signed into law on July 24. This law, strongly opposed by NJBIA, mandates that service employees must be retained for 60 days following a change in contract ownership, impacting various sectors across the business community such as office buildings, commercial complexes, warehouses, pharmaceutical labs, and educational institutions, among others.
Another significant bill, S4054, focuses on modifications to temporary disability and temporary family disability leave. It introduces provisions that would allow independent contractors the option to contribute to these systems while concurrently paying the employee and employer portions of the associated tax, thus enabling them to access these benefits.
The bill includes other potentially concerning provisions revising job protection requirements which are currently limited to employers with 30 or more employees and reducing the qualifying employment period for eligibility in these leave programs.