Articles Posted in Employment Law

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employment-300x200Background: New Regulations Adopted

In 2014 the United State Department of Labor issued new regulations governing overtime exemptions.  The regulations did not change the main overtime exemptions, but it did raise the salary threshold for them to apply.

Existing Exemptions

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dollar-1889027__340The Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) is a federal statute enacted in 1938 with the goal of setting national standards for employees, including minimum wage, overtime requirements, child labor restrictions, and other protections.   Our employment attorneys represent management and employers in litigation under FLSA violations and litigation about its state counterpart, the New Jersey Wage and Hour law.  Our

Many changes have been made to the FLSA over the years to try to keep up with the changes in inflation the socioeconomic climate of the country.  On March 13, 2014, President Obama published a Presidential Memorandum directing the DOL to review and revise the regulations protecting workers through minimum wage and overtime standards.  In May of 2016, the United States Department of Labor (“DOL”) responded by updating the FLSA to extend overtime pay protections and minimum salaries – which would mark the first significant change in 40 years.

The rule sets a minimum salary requirement of $47,476 for salaried workers – which more than doubled the prior minimum of $23,660. Generally, employees are paid on an hourly basis and then paid one and a half times their regular hourly pay for all hours worked in excess of 40 hours per week.  However, certain employees are “exempt” from the hourly pay and overtime requirements.  Some of the most comment exemptions are for: professionals (lawyers, accountants, engineers, etc.) executives or administrators (managers, officers, etc.), and commissioned salespeople.  For employees not being paid on commission, these exempt workers are generally paid an annual salary as opposed to an hourly wage.

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skills-835747_960_720In New Jersey, obtaining a teaching certificate is a difficult task, requiring a great deal of credentials.  For the individuals who are issued a teaching certificate, it is a testament to the individual’s dedication, commitment, and passion for teaching.  Therefore, if your certificate is at risk of being revoked or suspended, it is important to know your rights and whether to challenge such a determination.

The State Board of Examiners may revoke, suspend or deny a teacher’s certificate for many grounds set forth in the New Jersey Department of Education’s regulations in the New Jersey Administrative Code, N.J.A.C.§6A:9B-4.4.  One of the grounds that the State Board of Examiners may revoke, suspend or deny a teaching certificate is on the basis of “conduct unbecoming a teacher.”  Like many legal terms, “conduct unbecoming a teacher” is inherently  broad and encompasses a wide variety of teacher activity.  Due to its broad nature, a look into how courts have defined and analyzed “conduct unbecoming a teacher” is important if your certificate is being revoked, suspended or denied to determine whether to appeal the revocation or suspension.

Courts have defined “conduct unbecoming a teacher” in multiple ways including :

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New Jersey employment law has long protected employees against discrimination in employment. New Jersey was one of the first states to do so, passing the Law Against Discrimination in 1947.  One of the things that New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination protects employees from is discrimination because of disabilities.  This means that employers are prohibited from doing three things.  First, employers cannot take adverse actions, such as firing or demotion, against employees because of their disabilities.  Second, employers cannot harass or create a hostile work environment for employees because of their disability.  Finally, employeer cannot fail to make reasonable accommodations so that employees can do their job even with their disabilities.

When an employer violates New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination, employees may sue their employees.  If they are successful they can recover their economic damages (such as lost pay), compensation for their emotional distress, the attorneys fees and litigation expenses they spent in the lawsuit, and sometimes punitive damages.  Of course, the employees must first prove that the employers violated the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, and then they must prove their damages.

Proving that an employee had a disability is part of the employee’s required proofs.  In many cases there is no dispute because the disability is apparent – if an employee is missing a leg the disability is obvious, and in many cases the disability is admitted.  However, in many cases the disability is neither apparent nor admitted by the employer.  How then to prove that the employee had the disability?  In many cases, this requires testimony from a doctor.

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pre-1272291__180New Jersey’s employment laws governing the rights and responsibilities of New Jersey teachers are found in Title 18A of New Jersey Statutes. The laws are complex, but our employment attorneys have significant experience in representing New Jersey teachers in this complex area.  Indeed, Maurice McLaughlin wrote the seminal treatise on the rights of public school teachers under New Jersey employment law.  This blog briefly summarizes untenured teachers’ rights.

Status of Non-Tenured Teachers

New Jersey is an “employment at will” state.  This means that normally an employee can be fired for any reason –even mistaken reasons – so long as the motivation is not illegal.  New Jersey’s tenure protection laws provide strong protections from the harshness of employment at will, but until teachers acquire tenure they have few protections against termination, even without cause.

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knowledge-1052011__180New Jersey’s Department of Education has issued regulations which govern “controversies and disputes” with public employees such teachers and principals.  The “controversies and disputes” cover a wide variety of issues including but not limited to the State Board of Examiner’s (“Board’s”) decision to block, revoke, or suspend a teacher’s certificate.

If you are faced with such a controversy or dispute or have been adversely affected by a  decision from the Board or other agency, these regulations provide a legal right to challenge the decision through a petition of appeal.  The petition of appeal must be filed in the specific format and must be filed within the time limitations provided under N.J.A.C. §6A:3-1.3(i).  Failing to strictly comply with these requirements may prevent you from challenging the Board’s or other agency’s decision or order.

The time period to file a petition of appeal begins from the date you receive a notice of “a final order, ruling or other action” by the Board, a board of education, or other agency.  The notice of the final decision must set forth the facts that you have a right to know which the decision is based on.  However, the notice may not be clear that the decision is final or provide you with information regarding your right to file a petition of appeal.  Therefore, it is extremely important that you address any notice of a decision that affects your employment promptly and seek legal counsel regarding your rights to appeal before they are time barred.

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Fighting Tenure Charges Against New Jersey Teachersbirger-kollmeier-910261__180

Our New Jersey employment attorneys represent teachers and other school employees in tenure charges, wrongful discharge, harassment and other wrongful treatment.

In 2012, the TEACHNJ Act, pushed through the Legislature by Governor Christie, made major changes to New Jersey’s tenure laws.  Among other changes, it revamped the appeal process for New Jersey tenure charges.  Instead of having New Jersey Department of Education make the final determination of tenure charges after a fact-finding trial by an administrative law judge, appeals of tenure charges are now decided by binding arbitration.  Because of the finality of these arbitration decisions, and the limited grounds for appeal, it is important to have experienced New Jersey employment attorneys representing you.