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Articles Tagged with New Jersey Employment Attorneys

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An important New Jersey employment law decision was recently issued by the Appellate Division in the case of Dibuonaventura vs. Washington Township.  Thesupreme-administrative-court-3565618_960_720-300x200 case has a long and tangled history, but this decision illustrates several important employment law rules affecting New Jersey government employees.

Background: Dibuonaventura I & II

Joseph Dibuonaventura was a police officer in Washington Township.  In 2012, he pulled over the Township’s former mayor and charged him with driving while under the influence of alcohol and refusing to take a breathalyzer test.  The former mayor disputed the charges and lodged internal affairs and criminal complaints against Officer Dibuonaventura.  Eventually the officer was indicted, and the Township suspended him pending the outcome of the criminal charges.  He was eventually found not guilty of all criminal charges by a jury.

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The Arafa Case

The New Jersey Supreme Court issued an opinion in the case of Arafa v. Health Express Corporation in a consolidated appeals about a niche question regarding the interplay of the Federal Arbitration Act (the “FAA”) and the New Jersey Arbitration Act (the “NJAA”) regarding the judge-gavel-1461998219JBc-300x200enforceability of agreements in employment contracts to arbitrate disputes under New Jersey employment law.  The consolidated cases were both brought as class actions by employees whose duties included driving to make deliveries for their employers.  In one of the appeals it was clear that the employees were making deliveries outside the state as well as in it, and were therefore engaged in interstate commerce; in the other it was not clear.  In both cases the employers argued that the cases were not covered by the FAA, which contains an exemption which provides that the FAA will not apply to “contracts of employment of seamen, railroad employees, or any other class of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce,” which the United States Supreme Court has defined to include interstate deliveries.  Because the drivers were not covered by the FAA due to the exception, the employers argued, they were covered by the NJAA, which did not contain such an exemption, and the arbitration agreements were therefore enforceable.  Thus, the employers argued, the lawsuits in Superior Court should be dismissed and the cases submitted to binding arbitration.  The trial judges in the Law Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey agreed with the employers and dismissed the suits and ordered them to arbitration.  In both cases, the employees separately appealed, and different panels of the Appellate Division of the Superior Court reached different decisions.  To resolve the split, the New Jersey Supreme Court agreed to hear the appeals.

Why does this matter?  If it seems pretty arcane, it has significant real world consequences.  First, the employees sued for unpaid overtime under the New Jersey Wage and Hour Law because New Jersey law and New Jersey courts are seen – rightly or wrongly – as more friendly to employees than federal court, which of course is why the employers didn’t want the case there.  Moreover, arbitration is seen as much more friendly to employers than employees, which is why the two sides were fighting over it.

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The Chancery Division of New Jersey’s Superior Court recently issued a public employment law decision in the case of Petrella v. The Hackensack Board of Education which is important for New Jersey teaching staff members because it examined the grounds for overturning an arbitration decision on tenure charges under the TEACHNJ Act.judge-gavel-1461998219JBc-300x200

Under New Jersey employment law, tenure confers many benefits on teaching staff members.   A teacher or other teaching staff member, such as an athletic director, who has tenure may not dismissed or have their pay reduced for any reason other than incapacity, inefficiency, conduct unbecoming, “or other just cause.”  It also gives teaching staff members appeal rights if tenure charges are filed against them, which includes binding arbitration under the TEACHNJ Act.

In the Petrella case, tenure charges were filed against a tenured athletic director for:

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In a landmark decision, the United States Supreme Court has ruled that discrimination because of a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity constitutes illegal sex discrimination in Violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  This ruling applies nationwide, and means that employers may not fire, demote, harass, refuse to hire, or take any other negative action against employees because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.  This has long been the state of us-supreme-court-300x200New Jersey employment law under New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination

Title VII and the Bostock Case

Title VII prohibits discrimination against employees because of sex.  Title VII specifically provides that

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Epidemic, Coronavirus, Lurking, Virus
As a result of the coronavirus (“COVID19”), the state and federal governments have been taking significant steps to enact laws to assist with relief efforts, particularly in relation to the economic strain that many individuals, families, and businesses are facing as a result of widespread closures, business limitations, and stay-at-home orders.

The federal government previously passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act which provides emergency relief in relation to job protection and paid leave. Now Congress is working on a new stimulus bill which would provide $2 trillion in relief aid through several different avenues.  This bill has not yet been passed and therefore is still subject to change at this point. However, it appears that several core areas are likely to remain and be ultimately signed into law.

This includes: unemployment assistance, rebates to individuals (relief checks), tax credits to businesses which were closed or significantly effected by COVID-19 and continued to pay employees, bailout loans for major companies such as airlines and hotels (this is perhaps the area most disputed in Congress and therefore most subject to change), and funding to hospitals and health care facilities.

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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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Criminal charges against public employees can have serious consequences under New Jersey civil service law.  In this post, we’ll examine gavel-300x200some of those consequences.

Suspensions of New Jersey Civil Service Employees While Criminal Charges Are Pending

First, if a New Jersey civil service employee is facing criminal charges, she can be suspended while the charges are pending.  The employee must be served with a preliminary notice of disciplinary action (PNDA). The PNDA must advise her that she may be subject to being fired if the charges are upheld, and that she has the right to consult with an attorney.  The employee may request a hearing about the suspension. If no request is made within five days the appointing authority may issue a final notice of disciplinary action (FNDA). If the employee is charged with a third degree crime or higher, if she is charged with a crime of the fourth degree on the job, or if the charges are “directly related to the job,” the employee may be suspended indefinitely until the charges are resolved.

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Truck, Transportation, Vehicle
In 2016, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (“FMCSA”) announced a new rule establishing a database for information regarding violations of drug and alcohol testing regulations by commercial motor vehicle drivers. While the rule went into effect in 2017, the requirement for FMCSA-regulated employers to begin searching and reporting on this database did not take effect until January 6, 2020.

Therefore, regulated employers are now required to report information regarding any violations of the DOT’s drug and alcohol regulations through the FMCSA’s database (called “Clearinghouse”).  This will allow employers to identify drivers who are prohibited from operating a vehicle because of prior violations.

“Regulated employers” include employers in the trucking or transportation industry who either hold a Commercial Driver’s License (“CDL”) themselves or whose employees hold a CDL, and who operate a commercial motor vehicle(s) in any state which has (1) a gross vehicle weight of 26,001 pounds or more, or (2) is designed to carry 16 or more passengers (including the driver), or (3) is involved in transporting hazardous materials.

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There are many people who complain that Civil Service is a terrible hindrance to efficient government.  Managers complain that Civil civil-caseService rules hinder their ability to run their organizations by hiring, firing and imposing discipline as they believe is best.  Citizens often complain Civil Service makes it too hard to get rid of “bad apples.”  Employees complain that Civil Service makes promotions and transfers too difficult.  Applicants complain that the Civil Service system makes it too hard to get hired.  All these criticisms are valid, as far as the go.  However, they miss the mark because they focus on the trees but miss the forest.  New Jersey’s Civil Service System was adopted to combat some real and grave problems with state and local government.  Without Civil Service these problems would continue today unchecked.  Civil Service isn’t perfect, but New Jersey is a far better place because of it.

New Jersey has a long history of government corruption; it is by no means a new phenomenon.  This included a “spoils system” rewarding the winners of elections with the ability to award jobs to their supporters, outright bribery, political favoritism, nepotism and outright discrimination in hiring and keeping government jobs.  It was a disgrace.

In 1908 the early twentieth century Progressive Movement led New Jersey to adopt its first Civil Service laws, and to establish the Civil Service Commission to regulate Civil Service practices.  Then, in 1947, a constitutional convention was held at Rutgers University, in which a new state Constitution was adopted.  The goal of the constitutional convention was to reform many areas of New Jersey’s state and local governments.  One area it specifically addressed was Civil Service.  Article VII, section 1 of the New Jersey Constitution of 1947 provided that:

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People Of Uganda, People, Sad, Emotional
The Wrestling Incident

During an incident on December 19, 2018, a referee required an African American wrestler at Buena Regional High School choose between cutting his dreadlocks or forfeiting his wrestling match.  Rather than forfeit the match, the wrestler chose to cut his hair.  Because the incident had indicia of being racially motivated, or at least having a racially disparate impact, and allegations of racism by the same referee had previously been made, the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights (DCR) and the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (known as NJSIAA, the Association self-regulates high school sports in New Jersey) begin a joint investigation.  The NJSIAA eventually suspended the referee for two years.

The New Jersey Division of Civil Rights’ Guidance

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