Articles Posted in Business Law

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New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination has rightly been called one of the strongest employee protection laws in the nation.  This is true both because of the broad range of inherent characteristics  which it protects from discrimination, and the strong legal protections and remedies it provides.  In short, the Law Against Discrimination prohibits employers from discriminating against employees because of a wide range of inherent qualities which make them who they are. It likewise prohibits harassment because any of these characteristics as well.  These protected characteristics include race, creed, color, national origin, nationality, ancestry, sex (including pregnancy and sexual harassment), marital status, domestic partnership or civil union status, affectional or sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, atypical hereditary cellular or blood trait, genetic information, liability for military service, and mental or physical disability, including AIDS and HIV related illnesses.  It also prohibits discrimination or harassment because of an employee’s age.

The Andujar Case

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals, which hears appeals from the federal district courts in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and the United States Virgin Islands, recently issued an instructive opinion in the appeal of an age discrimination verdict under the Law Against Discrimination in the case of Santos Andujar versus General Nutrition Corporation.

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In New Jersey, you cannot sell alcohol unless you have a license issued by the New Jersey Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control.  New Jersey issues many types of licenses which broadly fall within three general categories:  Manufacturing Licenses, Retail Licenses, and Wholesale Licenses.   Each license is attached to the “Licensed Premises,” and any change in the location or size or configuration of the Licensed Premises requires a place to place transfer application to  be filed and approved before changes to the Licensed Premises can be completed.   This transfer application is substantially the same as the process for transfer of ownership of the license.  While the majority of licenses issued by the State of New Jersey fall into the Retail Licenses category, Manufacturing Licenses (designated as Class A licenses) include Brewery, Winery and Distillery Licenses which are a growing category.  Wholesale Licenses (designated as Class B licenses) apply to wholesale distribution of alcoholic beverages to retail licensees.

The Retail Licenses (designated as Class C licenses) are issued to bars, restaurants, and liquor stores. There are 11 different types of New Jersey Liquor Licenses which fall within the Retail License categories:

Plenary Retail Consumption License (identified by license number 33): This license permits the liquor license holder to sell alcoholic beverages for consumption at the licensed premises, and the sale of packaged goods for consumption off premises, the sale of packaged goods must take place in the public barroom.  This license counts toward the municipality’s population restriction which allows 1 license per 3,000 residents of a municipality based upon the most recent census data.

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The Appellate Division of New Jersey’s Superior Court recently issued an important construction law decision examining the effect of New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act in cases also involving the breach of a construction contract or negligent construction.

By way of background, coverage under New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act was expressly extended to include contractors engaging in home improvements and home repair.  The New Jersey Department of Community Affairs issued regulations requiring specific items in contracts between home improvement contractors and homeowners.  Violation of these technical requirements are “per se” violations of the Consumer Fraud Act, entitling the homeowner to triple damages and reimbursement of their attorneys fees by the contractor.

Under these regulations, the  specific requirements which home improvement contracts must contain include the following.

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The United States Third Circuit Court of Appeals (which hears appeals from the federal district courts in New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania and the United States Virgin Islands) recently had the opportunity to address the state of New Jersey employment law on restrictive covenants in the case of ADP, LLC v. Rafferty.

Background

In the Rafferty case, two ADP employees, Kristi Mork and Nicole Rafferty, agreed to restrictive covenants in exchange for an award of company stock.  Because they were high performing employees, they agreed to restrictions in exchange for the stock award which were more onerous than lower performing  employees were required to agree to.  The restrictions applied whether they quit or were fired.

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Background: The Law Against Discrimination

New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination (often referred to as the “LAD” or the “NJLAD”) prohibits discrimination and harassment against employees because of a wide variety of immutable characteristics. Among these are protections against discrimination and harassment because of an employee’s age and disability. The Law Against Discrimination’s protections have been described as among the strongest in the country.

The Caraballero Case

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Types of Entities Available Under New Jersey Business Law

New Jersey business law offers different options for the forms which business entities can take.  Each has its advantages and disadvantages.  Traditionally, the choices were corporations, partnerships and sole proprietorships.

Corporations are usually chosen, particularly in the context of small businesses, for the protection they provide.  The corporate form erects a shield, known as the “corporate veil,” which protects owners from the debts and liabilities of their business.  So, for example, if the corporation owes a supplier and doesn’t pay, the supplier can recover from the company but not the owners.  Likewise, if someone is injured by the company’s negligence they can only sue the business, not the owners.

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medical-marijuana-300x300While the sale and possession of marijuana are flatly illegal under federal law, and the illegal status of recreational marijuana under New Jersey law has not changed yet, the medical use of marijuana is legal under New Jersey’s Compassionate Use Act for ALS, anxiety, certain chronic pain conditions, migraine headaches, MS, opioid addiction, terminal cancer, muscular dystrophy, inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease, terminal illness with less than twelve months of life expectancy, and Tourette’s Syndrome. It may also be used to treat HIV, acquired immune deficiency syndrome and cancer if severe or chronic pain, severe nausea or vomiting, cachexia or wasting syndrome result from treatment.  Additionally, seizure disorder, epilepsy, Intractable skeletal muscular spasticity, glaucoma and PTSD qualify for medical marijuana treatment if the patient is intolerant of or resistant to conventional therapy.

The Interplay of Medical Marijuana and Disability Protections under New Jersey Employment Law

The Compassionate Use Act contains the language that “Nothing in this act shall be construed to require… an employer to accommodate the medical use of marijuana in any workplace.”  On the other hand, New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination does require employers to make reasonable accommodation for an employee’s disability if the accomodation would allow her to work without causing undue hardship for the employer.  The conditions which allow for the use of medical marijuana under the Compassionate Use Act would in all likelihood constitute “disabilities” under the Law Against Discrimination.  These two laws, both of which laudably aim to protect vulnerable people, thus appear to be in conflict.

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office-2009693__340-300x200New Jersey employment law generally recognizes that employees have a limited right to privacy in the workplace, including in their digital life.  However, a recent federal appellate decision limited the reach of employee privacy.  It is an unpublished decision, and therefore not binding.  However, it is a troubling outcome.

The New Jersey Supreme Court Finds Employees Have Privacy Rights

People generally have a right to privacy which they do not lose when entering the work force.  The New Jersey Supreme Court explained in the 1992 case of Hennessey v. Coastal Eagle Point Oil Co. that the source of this right in New Jersey Employment law comes from the New Jersey Constitution and the common law.  However, in that same case, the Supreme Court ruled that the right to privacy in the workplace is not absolute, and may yield to legitimate public policy concerns such as public and employee safety.

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site-2293451__340-300x200When a solid waste collection company enters into a contract to transfer ownership of assets, a petition for approval must be submitted the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.  Assets may not be transferred until this approval is obtained.  One area which the NJDEP evaluates prior to issuing such an approval is the impact of the transfer upon effective competition.  This is a very detailed analysis which can be time consuming.

The solid waste industry serves a dynamic market and the NJDEP must continually evaluate the market to ensure that there are multiple companies serving the customers in each market.  The controlling case law is found in United States v. Philadephia Nation Bank, 374 U.S. 321 (1963), in which the United States Supreme Court held that any sale which results in one company controlling thirty percent or more of the market and results in a significant increase in the concentration of companies in that market creates a lessening of effective competition.  When that is found it creates a presumption which is rebutted if it is shown that the sale is not likely to have such anti-competitive effects.

When the NJDEP performs an analysis of effective competition, it will only prohibit asset transfers if the transfer increases the company’s level of concentration in the market to an extent that could facilitate collusion among a small number of remaining competitors.  The NJDEP considers the following factors to determine effective competition: 1) the size of the company compared to the other companies providing the same service in the markets affected by the transfer; 2) the percentage of customers in the affected markets which will be served by the company after the transfer; and 3) this Herfindahl- Hirschman Index (HHI) of market concentration.

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whistleblower-1764379__340-300x300New Jersey employment law has some of the strongest employee protections in the United States.  A recent unpublished decision by the Appellate Division of New Jersey’s Superior Court may have expanded those already strong protections.

New Jersey Whistleblower Laws

New Jersey has two main employment laws protecting whistleblowers.  The first is the common law rule established by New Jersey’s Supreme Court in the case of Pierce v. Ortho Pharmaceutical Corp. in 1980, which prohibits an employer from retaliating against an employee in violation of a “clear mandate of public policy” found in legislation; administrative rules, regulations and decisions; and judicial decisions.  Thus, an employer may not discipline an employee for disclosing, objecting to or refusing to participate in a practice which violated one of these policies.