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Articles Posted in Labor and Employment Law

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In the tough economic times brought on by COVID-19, many governors and veterans-300x200mayors, including New Jersey’s Governor Murphy, have said that widespread layoffs may be necessary if federal assistance is not forthcoming.  Our attorneys represent New Jersey Civil Service employees, and we see the struggles they are facing.  Given this, we thought the time was right to review the layoff rights available under New Jersey Civil Service law.

 
Layoffs

A layoff is the termination of a permanent employee’s employment because of economic reasons.  Demotions or reduction of hours for economic reasons are also treated as layoffs, triggering the rights and procedures applicable to layoffs.

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As a result of the Novel Coronavirus (“COVID-19”), the federal government has passed significant legislation in an attempt to provide relief to businesses small-business-300x215struggling with economic hardships as a result of widespread closures and stay-at-home orders.  One major part of these governmental actions includes the passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (also known as the “CARES Act”) on April 2, 2020.

The CARES Act provides for approximately $2 trillion in aid through expanded unemployment assistance, individual relief checks, tax credits, loans, and grants to businesses which were closed or significantly effected by COVID-19, and funding to hospitals and health care facilities. Of this, approximately $350 billion was allocated to the CARES Act’s Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP).   When that money was almost immediately sought by the millions of businesses seeking assistance, an additional $175 billion was additionally allocated.

The PPP limited its funding to each company to two and a half times the company’s average monthly payroll costs.  While the PPP is considered a loan program, the funds may largely (or entirely) be forgiven as long as the company uses the funds for approved expenses. The details of exactly which expenses would be considered approved and how these funds could be used has been the subject of much uncertainty over the past several weeks.  Indeed, the SBA (Small Business Administration) has posted additional rules and guidance on the matter more than 10 times in two months.

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In the time of the Coronavirus (COVID19), many people are concerned about the likelihood of needing to file for unemployment benefits in New Jersey in the near future.

Certainly, many people will be in need of New Jersey State assistance in 2020 and beyond as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and its effects.

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Hello.

This is Robert Chewning from McLaughlin & Nardi.  I am here today to talk about Civil Service Commission appeals, specifically list bypass appeals.

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The key to New Jersey Civil Service hiring and promotion is the examination.  The State Constitution and New Jersey Civil Service Act require merit-based appointments based, whenever possible, on examinations.

Announcements.  The New Jersey Civil Service Commission is responsible for administrating examinations which fairly test applicants’ mulitple-choice-exam-300x200knowledge, skills and abilities for the job.  Announcements are posted on the Commission’s website, and provided by the employer. Announcements include title, salary information, admission qualifications, filing information, and duties and responsibilities. No unannounced requirements can be considered.  Applications must be filed by the announced date.  The applicant must be a resident of New Jersey and the specified local jurisdiction, unless a different residency requirement is specified or there are not enough available qualified residents.  Applicants for municipal law enforcement or firefighter positions must be under 35 for open competitive examinations, except that applicants under 45 may subtract prior law enforcement experience to meet the 35 year age requirement.  Veterans may subtract their service from their age to determine eligibility.

Types of Examinations.  Examinations may be written; oral; performance evaluation; physical performance tests; assessment exercises; and evaluation of education, training and experience.  The goal is to objectively measure an applicant’s fitness and merit.  Thus, while subjectivity in developing an examination is not forbidden, it must be limited.

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Because the purpose of the New Jersey Civil Service System is to remove politics, nepotism and favoritism from the hiring and disciplinarydisciplinary-1326277__340-300x300 processes to ensure that employment decisions are based on merit and fitness, just cause must be found for imposing discipline.  And because the employer is the government, all discipline, New Jersey’s Court’s have explained, “is governed by principles of notice, due process and fundamental fairness.” The key to this is notice and the opportunity to be heard at a hearing.

Written Notice and the Opportunity for a Hearing Before Appointing Authority

Before disciplinary action may be taken against a permanent civil service employee or during an employee’s working test period, the employee must get written notice and the opportunity for a hearing on major discipline.  This notice comes in the form of a “Preliminary Notice of Disciplinary Action” (“PNDA”).  The PNDA must set forth the charges and give a specification.  It must give the employee the opportunity for a hearing prior to major discipline. The PDNA should give the employee notice of all the charges and specifications against him so he can prepare a defense.

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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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Willful Violations Under The Fair Labor Standards Act

352099_construction_3-002-300x225The Federal Fair Labor Standards Act establishes rates of minimum wage and overtime pay which employers must pay to their employees.  Employees successfully suing their employers for violations of these requirements can recover their lost wages, and their employers will be required to pay their attorneys fees and litigation costs.  The Fair Labor Standards Act provides that willful violations of these requirements will result in double damages – ie., the employer will be required pay the employee twice the amount of wages or overtime it did not pay.  A willful violation also extends the statute of limitations for suing from two years to three.

Willfulness: The Question Facing the Third Circuit

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