Articles Posted in Business Law

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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.

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truck-3503831__340-300x200Selling a business can be an involved process.  However, selling an A901 licensed waste transportation business in New Jersey can be even more complex.

Waste hauling is a strictly monitored and regulated industry in New Jersey under the umbrella of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (“DEP”).  In fact, while the waste transportation company may be owned by limited liability members or corporate shareholders, no owner may sell an A-901 licensed business without DEP approval and oversight.

Indeed New Jersey’s Administrative Code (“NJAC”)  contains the DEP’s regulations which provide that no solid waste transporter can sell, lease, or otherwise dispose of its property (including customer lists) without obtaining prior authorization from the DEP.   Therefore, anyone seeking to sell their waste collection business or the assets thereof, must file the appropriate notices with the DEP and obtain approval from the DEP before any closing or consummation of the sale or transfer may take place.

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construction-645465__340-300x200A recent decision in the case of Jacobs v. Mark Lindsay and Son Plumbing & Heating, Inc., by the Appellate Division of New Jersey’s Superior Court examined the interplay between two very important laws – New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act and the criminal “theft of services statute” in the context of a dispute between a contractor which wanted to get paid, and a homeowner who didn’t believe the contractor had earned his fee. It contains important lessons for residential construction contractors.

The Consumer Fraud Act and Theft of Services

New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act prohibits merchants from engaging in “unconscionable commercial practices.” The Consumer Fraud Act applies to “home improvement contractors,” and regulations issued by the Division of Community Affairs extend the Consumer Fraud Act’s protections to specific requirements for contracts for “home improvement” work, including having a signed, written contract in the first place. The New Jersey Criminal Code makes theft of services a criminal offense.

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girl-2607176__340-300x240There are many types of medical leave benefits which exist in New Jersey for employees, and they are ever-expanding and evolving. There is the federal Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 (“FMLA”) which allows an employee to take time off from work either for that employee’s own medical issues or to care for a seriously ill family member. The FMLA allows an employee to take up to twelve weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave each year as long as the employer has fifty or more employees.

To supplement this, in 2008 New Jersey enacted the Family Leave Act. That law provided up to six weeks of paid time off for employees to care for sick family members or newborn babies. The FLA did not cover time off for the employee’s own illness (because that is covered by New Jersey’s Temporary Disability Insurance laws (“TDI”)). Still, under the FLA, employees could take 6 weeks off to bond with or care for a family member and their jobs were protected during that period. The employee would receive up to 2/3rds of their normal weekly salary or wages (or approximately 66% of wages), up to a maximum of $650 per week. As with the FMLA, the FLA only applied to employers with fifty or more employees.

For an employee who had to be out for her own medical condition, pregnancy, or disability, that employee could file for TDI benefits. To qualify for TDI, an employee would need to be out of work for a medical reason for more than seven days. TDI benefits provide employees with up to 26 weeks of partial salary replacement. As with the 2008 FLA, the employee could receive up to 2/3rds of her normal wages. However, with TDI, that amount maxes-out at $637 per week.