While New Jersey has long had a reputation as one of the states with laws most favorable to employees, along with California and a few others, the environment here is not quite as favorable as it once was. This turn for the worse is largely due to a more conservative New Jersey Supreme Court, which, 25 years ago, was one of the leading courts in developing the law protecting the rights of employees. That, unfortunately, is no longer the case.
Nonetheless, New Jersey’s employment laws, and the court decisions interpreting them, still remain significantly stronger than those in the vast majority of states. Moreover, the protections provided to New Jersey employees by our state’s employment laws are almost uniformly better than those provided under federal law, and state courts remain more protective of employee rights than the federal courts.
What Is Employment Law?
Employment law encompasses the broad collection of federal and state laws that dictate rights and obligations between employers and employees. Employment laws originated in response to petitions and movements by workers to demand fair wages and protect children from forced labor. In the last 100 years, employment law has evolved to protect workers from harassment, discrimination, and unsafe working conditions. Employees across America now have the right to medical leave, the right to earn at the state or federal minimum wage, protection related to union membership and collective bargaining, and protection from discrimination and retaliation after whistleblowing. These workplace laws were created to protect employees and empower them to work in an environment in which they feel safe.
Many employment law cases fall into the following categories:
- Discrimination on the basis of national origin, sexual orientation, pregnancy, age, race, religion, or disability
- Disputes over reasonable accommodations for disabled employees
- Sexual harassment and Title IX cases
- Contract disputes including non-compete agreements, restrictive covenants, and employment contract disputes
- Wage disputes, such as those related to unpaid overtime, wage theft, or worker misclassification
- Wrongful termination including as retaliation against whistleblowers
- Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) where employees at companies of 50 employees or more are entitled to take job protected time off to care for themselves or a family member
- Miscellaneous employment disputes that do not require legal action, such as contract negotiation and mediation
Some employment law attorneys represent both employees and employers. The law firm of Schall & Barasch LLC handles all aspects of employment law with respect to employees only. By dedicating our practice to employees, we do not need to worry about pleasing big corporations and companies. Instead, we have garnered the reputation as aggressive plaintiff-side attorneys that will fight tirelessly against unscrupulous employers.
New Jersey’s Anti-Discrimination Laws
The employment lawyers at Schall & Barasch LLC know that one of the principal areas in which this is true involves the much greater potential damages employees can recover under New Jersey’s anti-discrimination laws, as opposed to the federal laws against discrimination. In 1991, Congress amended the principal federal anti-discrimination law, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, to impose “caps” on the total amount of compensatory and punitive damages that employees could recover upon proving and winning a case that they had been discriminated against by their employees. Those “caps” can be as little as $50,000 for small employers and go up only to $300,000 for even the largest employers.
By contrast, under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD), which outlaws discrimination based on race, age, sex, disability, sexual orientation, and a host of other “protected classes,” there are no “caps” on damages. Millions of dollars are potentially recoverable in a sufficiently egregious case of employment discrimination against any employer in the State of New Jersey, regardless of size.
The Conscientious Employee Protection Act
New Jersey also has a very strong law, the Conscientious Employee Protection Act, or CEPA, protecting the rights of whistleblowers and those who refuse to go along with employer demands that they participate in unlawful conduct. While there have unfortunately been a few recent decisions from the New Jersey Supreme Court and the Appellate Division wrongly curtailing the protections of the law as intended by our Legislature, CEPA remains one of the strongest whistleblower protection laws in the country.
Protection from Overbroad Non-Compete Agreements
In the area of protecting employees from overbroad or oppressive non-compete agreements, New Jersey’s courts have also been among the more proactive courts in the country. If a non-compete agreement is not legitimately protecting some genuine employer interest but is instead merely anti-competitive, our courts will refuse to enforce it, even though an employee has signed it and stated (generally with no choice but to do otherwise) that he or she “agrees” that its terms are “reasonable.” In some cases, a court will find that a non-compete agreement covers too long a period of time or too great an area of geographic scope.
It is important to understand that the law that will apply to you is, generally speaking, the law in the state in which you work, not necessarily the state in which you live. For example, if you live in New Jersey but regularly work in Pennsylvania, you are not likely to be protected by New Jersey’s employment laws.
Nobody should be subjected to unfair, harassing, illegal, or unethical behavior in the workplace.
Schall & Barasch LLC aid clients in negotiating their employment agreements, non-compete agreements, and severance packages. They routinely advise clients on issues concerning discrimination, harassment, wrongful termination, whistleblower retaliation. As attorneys fully dedicated to employee-side employment law, they are in a unique position to counsel employees from virtually all industries. Whether you are a senior-level executive or a professional manager, administrator, or worker, our goal is always the same: advocate for employees and fight for maximum compensation.
If you have questions about the laws that may apply to you, it is important to consult with our experienced employment lawyers. We encourage you to reach out to us online to request a consultation.
“Without hesitation, I would recommend this firm to individuals needing employment consultation advice and counsel.”- Irena K.
“Their experience in labor law and their expertise makes Schall & Barasch the choice for any labor-related issues.”- Surya N.
“Richard and the team knew exactly how to get me out of my career-hindering noncompete agreement. He made the process as smooth as it could be.”- Abigail S.