Legislation that would allow the state to shut down businesses over a mere accusation of wage and hour violations is unjust and should be rejected by the Assembly when it comes up for a vote today, according to the New Jersey Business and Industry Association.
“This bill ignores due process and puts entirely too much power in the hands of one person,” said Mike Wallace, NJBIA vice president of Government Affairs. “It’s bad enough what this will do to employers, but the livelihood of the employees themselves would be at stake if this measure is approved.”
A-5838 would permit the Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development to issue a stop-work order against any employer whom the commissioner determines violates any state wage, benefit and tax law. The order would require the cessation of all business operations at every site where the violation occurs, and would remain in effect until the commissioner releases the stop-work order after the employer has agreed to pay the required wages and has paid any wages or penalty owed.
“Wage and hour laws are complicated, and the stakes are far too high to put this level of power in the hands of one person,” Wallace said. “When applied to actual workplaces, wage and hour laws are often subject to interpretation, and what is required of the employer is not always clear at the outset. There are also cases where employers simply make honest mistakes that do not justify shutting them down.
“Enforcement mechanisms and penalties are already in place to handle such cases without shutting down businesses and putting people out of work,” Wallace said.
He pointed out that having checks and balances in place are in the best interest of New Jersey as a whole, not just employers.
In addition to issuing stop-work orders, the bill would also give the commissioner the authority to enter workplaces and inspect records as part of an investigation. Any employer who fails to provide access to the workplace or records, or otherwise hinders the commissioner, may be fined not less than $1,000 and be guilty of a disorderly persons offense.
The bill also would allow the commissioner to require the employer to file with the department periodic reports for a probationary period of up to two years as a condition of release from a stop-work order, and may assess a civil penalty of $5,000 per day against an employer for each day that it conducts business operations that are in violation of the stop-work order.