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Articles Tagged with “Labor and Employment Law”

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New Jersey’s employment laws protect employees from workplace sexual harassment. People accused of sexual harassment may be subject to individual liability under both civil and criminal laws. Employers may also be found liable for sexual harassment because of their employees’ actions.

Sexual harassment does not need to be sexual in nature. It can take at least two forms: (1) hostile work environment, and (2) “quid pro quo” sexual harassment. Hostile work environment sexual harassment is conduct that has been directed towards someone because of that person’s sex. For example, harassment that is based on stereotypes about women or men can be construed to be sexual harassment. Of course, harassment that is sexual in nature is sexual harassment. Therefore, inappropriate sexual propositions, jokes or advances can be construed sexual harassment and result in a civil lawsuit. This type of conduct is prohibited.

“Quid pro quo” sexual harassment is also prohibited. Quid pro quo sexual harassment is the demand by an employer, manager, or supervisor that terms and conditions of employment, such as raises, promotions, or simply keeping the employee’s job, in return for sexual favors. For example, if a boss requires an employee to have sex or enter into a romantic relationship to keep her job, get a promotion or avoid discipline, then the employer could be liable for quid pro quo sexual harassment.

Employees complaining about workplace sexual harassment are protected from retaliation. In fact, it is a violation of New Jersey’s employment laws for employers to retaliate against employees for their complaints about behavior that that employees reasonably believe is sexual harassment.

Simply, employees should not have to endure the stress or indignity of inappropriate sexual conduct in the workplace. However, not every type of workplace conduct based on gender is unlawful. Instead, to have an actionable claim of sexual harassment the conduct complained of must be serious enough or frequent enough to make a reasonable person believe that her working conditions are hostile or abusive.
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stock-photo-20612112-woman-leading-business-team.jpgOne of the most common areas in which business owners make a mistake is with the hiring and properly classifying new workers. Classifying a person as an independent contractor can have appealing benefits for an employer, but it can have detrimental tax consequences and other legal implications under both federal and New Jersey law.

For example, employers maybe tempted to classify workers as independent contractors because they would then not have to pay the employer portion of social security and Medicare taxes for their workers. Employers will also not be required to comply with the Fair Labor Standard Acts and New Jersey Wage and Hour Law, both of which provide for minimum wage and overtime pay requirements. Instead, a worker who is an independent contractor will be considered “self-employed,” and will be required to pay the taxes as well as their full social security and medicare income tax. This has the effect of transferring seven percent of the cost of worker from the employer to the worker.

Before determining if a worker is an independent contractor or an employee, it is essential to seek advice from an experienced New Jersey employment attorney. Proper classification of a worker must be made on a case-by-case basis. Factors have been set forth by the United States Appellate Court for the Third Circuit and the New Jersey Supreme Court, which must be reviewed in making the determination.

The New Jersey Supreme Court explained that there are at least twelve factors that should be considered in determining if a worker is an employee. First, and most important, a worker is more likely to be considered an employee if the employer controls the means and manner her performance. Second, a worker can be considered an employee if her occupation is one that an employer can be required to supervise. Third, a worker who has the skill set that matches what the employer normally seeks of its employees to perform a job can be considered an employee. Fourth, a worker who is provided with equipment and a workplace by the employer is more likely to be considered an employee. Fifth, a person who continuously provides service to an employer can be construed as an employee. Sixth, workers who are paid directly by the employer can be construed as an employee. Seventh, a person who is actually terminated by the employer is more likely to be construed as an employee. Eighth, a worker who is provided annual leave is probably an employee. Ninth, a worker who is an integral part of the business of the employer is more likely to be construed as an employee. Tenth, a person who accrues retirement benefits will normally be considered as an employee. Eleventh, if a worker’s social security tax is paid by the employer then, she will probably be construed as an employee. Finally, the intention of the parties can help establish if a relationship is that of an employee-employer.
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Thumbnail image for quit.jpgNew Jersey employment law provides some of the strongest protections in the nation for New Jersey employees. A typical employment lawsuit involves an employee who has been fired in violation of some type of legal right. Employers, however, are now more sophisticated and do not always terminate their employees. Instead, employers now try to “force” their employees to quit by creating a hostile work environment.

Thus, a common question I am often asked is: “Can I still sue my employer who violated my rights if I quit?’ The answer will typically depend on a case-by-case analysis and the particular reasons behind the resignation. However, courts have now recognized a principal known as “constructive discharge.” Constructive discharge occurs when an employer make an employee’s job so miserable that the employee is forced to quit. Constructive discharge cases are often very difficult because the burden is on the employee to show that the work conditions were so unpleasant or difficult that a reasonable person would have felt compelled to quit, and the employer created them a hostile work environment for a prohibited reason, such as discrimination or retaliation against a “whistle blower.”

The New Jersey Supreme Court has explained that to sustain a claim for constructive discharge an employee must prove that the conduct complained of was so egregious that any reasonable person would be forced to resign rather than continue to endure it. For example, a typical case of constructive discharge can be sexual harassment by a supervisor. Another common example is when an employee makes a reasonable complaint that the employee believes another employee, typically one in a supervisor position, is violating the law. As a result, the employee that made the complaint begins to get unfavorable work assignments, is given poor reviews, and is otherwise subjected to a hostile work environment. If the employee quits as a result of the hostile work environment that employee could potentially sustain a claim for constructive discharge.

Employees who quit should not get discouraged by the fact that constructive discharge cases are difficult. In fact, New Jersey courts are quick to point out that decisions in constructive discharge cases are heavily fact-driven. It is therefore recommended to seek guidance from an experienced New Jersey employment attorney.
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Thumbnail image for photo-24897026-different-special-unique-leader-best-worst-teamwork-boss.jpgNew Jersey employers should be wary to take all allegations of retaliation or discrimination seriously or face significant consequences. New Jersey employment law provides some of the strongest protections in the nation for employees. In New Jersey employees are protected against discrimination and whistle-blowing retaliation.

New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination (the “LAD”) applies to all employers. The LAD prohibits discrimination or harassment in employment for a prohibited reason, including race, religion, color, gender, national origin, nationality, ancestry, age, marriage status, domestic partnership or civil union status, sexual orientation, identity, and disability. The LAD is remedial in nature and therefore is applied by the Court expansively.

New Jersey’s Conscientious Employee Protection Act (“CEPA”), which is New Jersey’s “whistleblower law,” prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who disclose, object to, or refuse to participate in actions which they reasonably believe are either illegal, fraudulent or in violation of public policy. CEPA protects all New Jersey employees and some independent contractors. The New Jersey Supreme Court has described CEPA as the most far-reaching whistleblower law in the United States.

Given the expansive interpretation of these two laws courts have been interpreting them with a very liberal standard. As a result, New Jersey employers that do not take discrimination or whistleblowing seriously can face dire legal consequences.
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1221951_to_sign_a_contract_2.jpgBusinesses, regardless of size, can benefit from an employee handbook. Similarly, an employee handbook can provide benefits to people working in New Jersey.

Generally, an employee handbook (also an employee manual) is a written record of a company’s policies and procedures. A well written employee handbook can provide clear guidelines and procedures for all employees and can help avoid lawsuits and other legal actions for employers. However, handbooks can also create contracts of employment which can bind employers if they are not careful.

Business owners can save time and money by having an experienced employment attorney draft its employee handbook providing employees with answers, explaining business rules, and allow the employer to comply with state and federal laws. A handbook should be drafted both to help the employee and prevent litigation. A poorly written employment handbooks could contain provisions that violate New Jersey or federal law, opening an employer up to liability.

An experienced employment attorney should review all employee manuals. An employment manual can under some circumstances create a employment contract with an employer. This can be detrimental to a company that intends to hire employees on an “at-will” basis. New Jersey is an “employment-at-will” state. This means that an employer can generally terminate an employee at any time for virtually any reason. Having an employment handbook that creates an employment contract could change a company’s outlook on its operations, and ability to hire and fire in its business judgment.
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