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New Jersey employment law protects workers in this state by requiring payment of a minimum wage and overtime, prohibiting discrimination and harassment, and setting standards for workplace safety, among many other measures. As with anything, there is always room for improvement. Recent developments in New Jersey’s warehousing industry may demonstrate an area where improvement is needed. E-commerce has vastly increased the demand for warehouse space and workers to operate fulfillment centers. New Jersey is reportedly home to over one billion square feet of warehouses, which employ tens of thousands of people. An incident at one fulfillment center in late 2018, which sent two dozen employees to the hospital, has led to demands for improvements in working conditions. A report from the labor organization Warehouse Workers Stand Up (WWSU) calls on New Jersey lawmakers to help push companies operating warehouse distribution centers to adopt a ten-point “code of conduct.”

The WWSU’s proposed code of conduct covers numerous areas of employment law, including wage and hour laws, workplace safety, medical leave, and labor organizing. State and federal laws address many of these areas to some extent, although many gaps and loopholes exist. According to the WWSU’s report, many distribution centers employ people on a temporary or part-time basis. Different definitions of “employee” in different statutes mean that not all legal protections may apply to people who do not have full-time, permanent employment, or who are employed in certain capacities. The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), for example, protects employees’ right to organize for the purpose of collective bargaining, but it defines “employee” in a way that might exclude some people, such as those considered to be an “independent contractor” or “supervisor.” 29 U.S.C. § 152(3).

In early December 2018, multiple employees at a distribution center in New Jersey were injured when a can of bear repellant, an aerosol product similar to pepper spray, fell off of a shelf. An automated machine reportedly punctured the can, causing its contents to disperse. About two dozen people went to the hospital, including one person who had to go to the intensive care unit. This incident appears to have been what led workers to rally in support of the WWSU’s proposed code of conduct.

A living wage is the first of ten items in the proposed code of conduct. It specifically calls for a minimum wage of $15 per hour, which is something New Jersey has already begun implementing, albeit gradually. The code of conduct also calls for changes to the hiring and employment practices that tend to evade many employment statutes, such as hiring workers for temporary or part-time positions. It also calls for “reasonable productivity quotas” and “quality, effective training on all workplace hazards.” Other items include paid leave and paid sick days, access to health care, and access to union representation.

If you and your employer are involved in a dispute in New Jersey or New York, the skilled and experienced employment attorneys at the Resnick Law Group are available to answer your questions and discuss your options. Please contact us today at 973-781-1204, at 646-867-7997, or online to schedule a confidential consultation.

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Organized labor is arguably responsible for many features of employment that are often taken for granted today. Union membership has decreased considerably over the past few decades for a variety of reasons. Employees in New Jersey are union members at a higher rate than the national average, but union members still only account for less than twenty percent of New Jersey’s workforce. Public sector unions tend to receive a great deal of media attention today, and the most popular historical images of union membership probably involve trades like manufacturing and mining. Recent news coverage, however, has pointed to itself as an important sector for union organizing. Newsrooms at print and digital publications around the country have elected to organize for the purpose of collective bargaining. While it is not clear if employees at any New Jersey-based publications have taken this step, it has happened at many publications that reach New Jersey readers.

New Jersey remains generally favorable to labor unions. Federal law protects workers’ rights to organize and engage in “concerted activities” related to organizing, and prohibits employers from interfering with those rights. See 29 U.S.C. §§ 157, 158. It does not, however, prevent states from enacting so-called “right-to-work” laws. At least twenty-six states, not including New Jersey, have enacted such laws. Right-to-work laws prohibit “union security clauses” in collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) between employers and labor unions. A union security clause requires all employees to contribute to the union, either by becoming a member or paying a fee. Without a union security agreement, employees who contribute nothing to the union still benefit from the union’s efforts.

Despite offering a relatively favorable environment for labor unions, not many New Jersey workers are union members. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, part of the U.S. Department of Labor, New Jersey had 630,000 union members in 2017. This accounted for 16.2 percent of all employees in the state. New York had 2,017,000 union members in 2017, or 23.8 percent. Both states saw a decline in union membership since 2007. New York’s number of union members fell by 38,000, while New Jersey’s fell by 118,000.

In February 2019, the publisher of the Hartford Courant newspaper in Hartford, Connecticut agreed to recognize a new union representing its newsroom employees. The new union will have collective bargaining authority for about sixty employees, eighty percent of whom reportedly signed union cards. The same publisher has also recognized unions for publications in Chicago, Los Angeles, and two cities in Virginia. Also in February, journalists at the digital media company BuzzFeed voted to unionize.

This recent organizing activity has occurred amid various business problems in digital publishing. BuzzFeed’s union vote, for example, occurred after the company laid off fifteen percent of its employees. Another digital publisher has been accused of laying off most of its staff in order to break the employees’ union. The print media business is also having difficulties, and some publishers are objecting to employees’ labor organizing efforts. A recent union complaint against a Pittsburgh newspaper, for example, charges that an editor “threaten[ed] employees with shop closure or job loss unless they cease engaging in union or other protected concerted activity.”

The Resnick Law Group’s team of experienced and skilled employment attorneys represent workers in New Jersey and New York, helping them assert their rights in claims under state and federal law. To schedule a confidential consultation to see how we can assist you, please contact us today online, at 973-781-1204, or at 646-867-7997.

More Blog Posts:

New Jersey Continues to Reject “Right to Work” Laws, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, September 4, 2018

Proposed Law Would Protect Rights of Workers in the “Gig Economy”, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, October 13, 2016

State “Right to Work” Law Ruled Unconstitutional, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, June 28, 2016

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The New Jersey minimum wage was increased on January 1, 2019 from $8.60 to $8.85 per hour. This is more than a dollar above the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, but it is lower than numerous other states. Massachusetts, California, and Washington, for example, currently set their minimum at $12.00 per hour. New York’s state-level minimum wage is around $11.00 per hour. New Jersey’s governor has stated that he would like to see a $15 minimum wage statewide. A recent deal with state legislators has increased the likelihood of that happening, although the increase would be gradual. Seattle raised its minimum wage to $15 per hour several years ago, and some observers note that the dire predictions of critics have not materialized.

The U.S. Congress last raised the federal minimum wage in the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007. Pub. L. 110-28 § 8102. That bill raised the federal rate to $5.85 after sixty days, with two additional increases. It has remained at $7.25 per hour since July 2010. 29 U.S.C. § 206(a)(1). New Jersey voters approved an amendment to the state constitution in 2013, which set the statewide minimum wage at $8.25 per hour starting on January 1, 2014. N.J. Const. Art. I, ¶ 23. It further directed the state to increase the minimum wage every year based on the increase in “the consumer price index for all urban wage earners and clerical workers (CPI-W) as calculated by the federal government.” Id. This process resulted in the $8.85 per hour rate that took effect at the beginning of January 2019. N.J.A.C. § 12:56-3.1(a).

A bill pending in the New Jersey Legislature, A15/S15, was reported out of both the Assembly and Senate Appropriations Committees in late January 2019. The the bill includes the CPI-W provisions of the 2013 constitutional amendment, but also sets increases in the minimum wage beginning in mid-2019. The minimum wage would increase by the greater of the amounts set by the bill or the increase in the CPI-W. The current rate of $8.85 per hour would increase to $10.00 per hour on July 1, 2019, and to $11.00 per hour on January 1, 2020. Each January 1 afterwards, the state minimum wage would increase by $1.00 until 2024, when it would be $15.00. If the U.S. Congress increases the federal minimum wage at any time to an amount greater than the state minimum wage rate, the federal rate would apply.

Critics of a $15 minimum wage argue that the increase would harm small businesses, and therefore harm workers by making it harder for employers to hire and retain employees. Proponents of the notion that the minimum wage is supposed to be “entry-level” argue that $15 per hour is too high for someone just starting out in the workforce. Minimum wage jobs are not limited to young people entering the workforce, but this argument still persists. A column published in Bloomberg in October 2018 examines the dire predictions about Seattle’s $15 minimum wage, describing them as “immediate, strident — and deeply wrong.”

If you need assistance in a dispute with an employer in New Jersey or New York, the employment attorneys at the Resnick Law Group are available to help you. Please contact us today at 973-781-1204, at 646-867-7997, or through our website to schedule a confidential consultation with a member of our team.

More Blog Posts:

New York and New Jersey Airport Workers Gain Minimum Wage Increase, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, November 19, 2018

New Jersey Governor Vetoes Minimum Wage Bill, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, September 22, 2016

New Employment-Related Bills Pending in the New Jersey Legislature, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, August 5, 2016

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Workers at major airports in New Jersey and New York City will see their minimum wage increased over the next few years to $19, the highest in the country, after a unanimous vote by the Board of Commissioners of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ). The federal minimum wage has remained at $7.25 per hour for almost a decade, while New Jersey and New York have enacted higher state-level minimum wages. Despite these laws, New Jersey wage and hour law claims routinely allege failure by employers to pay their workers at or above the minimum rate. The PANYNJ’s wage increase, while only binding on employers at certain airport facilities, will hopefully lead to increases elsewhere.

Congress last amended the minimum wage provisions of the Fair Labor Standard Act (FLSA) in 2007. The minimum wage increased to $5.85 per hour on July 24, 2007; to $6.55 an hour on July 24, 2008; and to $7.25 an hour on July 24, 2010. 29 U.S.C. § 206(a)(1). New Jersey’s minimum wage has been set at $8.60 per hour since the beginning of 2018. N.J. Rev. Stat. § 34:11-56a4, N.J.A.C. § 12:56-3.1. The minimum wage in New York varies by location. As of December 31, 2017, employers in New York City with eleven or more employees must pay at least $13.00 per hour, while employers with ten or fewer employees must pay $12.00 per hour. N.Y. Lab. L. § 652(1)(a).

The PANYNJ is a government organization created by a compact between the states of New Jersey and New York, with the approval of Congress. It was formally established in 1921, although the two states first agreed to work together in 1834 to manage the port area, which now covers an area of about 1,500 square miles. The governors of the two states appoint the members of the Board of Commissioners. The PANYNJ manages multiple seaports, the PATH train system and numerous bus lines, multiple bridges and tunnels, and six airports. Its authority includes the ability to set a minimum wage for workers employed at its sites.

The Board of Commissioners approved the minimum wage increase for three airports: LaGuardia Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport, and John F. Kennedy International Airport. This is likely to affect about forty thousand workers. The Board reportedly began the process of increasing the minimum wage earlier this year, but it did not become official until late September.

The first round of minimum wage increases began on November 1, 2018. The increases are not the same at every airport this year. As of November 1, the minimum wage for workers at Newark is $12.45, while it is $13.60 at JFK and LaGuardia. On September 1, 2019, the minimum wage at all three airports will increase to $15.60. The rate will increase by $0.60 the following year, and by $1 each year after that until it reaches $19 in 2023.

The Resnick Law Group’s team of experienced and knowledgeable employment attorneys represent New Jersey and New York workers, advocating for their rights in claims for unlawful employment practices under federal and state law. Please contact us today at 973-781-1204, at 646-867-7997, or through our website to schedule a confidential consultation to see how we can help you.

More Blog Posts:

How the “Gig Economy” Could Impact Wage and Hour Law Claims in New Jersey, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, October 15, 2018

FTC Settles Case Alleging Collusion Among Employers to Keep Pay Rates Low, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, October 4, 2018

Equal Pay Law Takes Effect in New Jersey, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, September 20, 2018

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New Jersey employment laws, as well as laws around the country, must balance the rights and interests of employees with those of employers. Employees’ protected rights include fair wages, reasonable hours, and a workplace that is reasonably safe and free of harassment and discrimination. Employers need to be able to pursue their business activities, to the extent that they do not violate the rights of their employees and others. Sometimes, businesses may determine that they need to lay off a significant portion of their workforce. This is within an employer’s rights, but laws at the federal level and in many states, including New Jersey, set strict limits. A recently-filed lawsuit alleges that a video game company violated the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act of 1988 when it laid off all but twenty-five employees several months ago. Roberts, et al v. Telltale Games, Inc., No. 3:18-cv-05850, complaint (N.D. Cal., Sep. 24, 2018).

The federal WARN Act generally applies to employers with at least one hundred full-time employees. The statute’s requirements are triggered by two events: a “plant closing” or a “mass layoff.” The former refers to any closure of a facility that results in fifty or more employees at a single site losing their jobs within a period of thirty days; while the latter refers to any other incident that, in a thirty-day period, results in layoffs of (1) at least five hundred employees, or (2) at least fifty employees when that number accounts for one-third of all employees. 29 U.S.C. §§ 2101(a)(2), (3). New Jersey’s equivalent law is formally known as the Millville Dallas Airmotive Plant Job Loss Notification Act of 2007, and informally known as the NJ WARN Act. It uses the same definition of “mass layoff,” and uses the term “termination of operations” to refer to the same type of incident as a “plant closing.” N.J. Rev. Stat. § 34:21-1.

Both the federal and NJ WARN Acts require covered employers to provide written notice to employees or their representatives at least sixty days prior to a plant closing or mass layoff. 29 U.S.C. § 2102(a)(1), N.J. Rev. Stat. § 34:21-2(a). If an employer fails to provide the required notice under either statute, aggrieved employees may bring a civil action for damages. Federal law allows back pay, along with benefits subject to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), for up to sixty days. 29 U.S.C. § 2104(a). The NJ WARN Act allows courts to award “lost wages, benefits and other remuneration” in an amount up to “one week of pay for each full year of employment.” N.J. Rev. Stat. §§ 34:21-2(b), 34:21-6.

The plaintiffs in Roberts worked for a video game developer known for games based on popular entertainment franchises like the television show The Walking Dead. The company announced in late September 2018 that it planned on shutting down all operations, and that it had already let most of its workforce go. Within days, the plaintiffs filed suit in federal court, alleging that the company violated both the federal WARN Act and its California counterpart by failing to give the required sixty-day notice.

The Resnick Law Group’s employment attorneys advocate for the rights of job seekers, employees, and former employees in New Jersey and New York in claims under state and federal employment statutes. Please contact us at 973-781-1204, at 646-867-7997, or online today to schedule a confidential consultation with a member of our team.

More Blog Posts:

How the “Gig Economy” Could Impact Wage and Hour Law Claims in New Jersey, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, October 15, 2018

Supreme Court Ruling Affects Collective and Class Employment Actions in New Jersey, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, July 10, 2018

New Jersey Law Requires Employers to Give Specific Notification to Employees During Layoffs and Other Major Upheavals, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, April 14, 2017

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A new law protecting New Jersey public sector unions, which was signed into law by Governor Phil Murphy in May 2018, faces a legal challenge based on a U.S. Supreme Court decision one month later. The law, entitled the Workplace Democracy Enhancement Act (WDEA), establishes standards for interactions between public-sector unions and government employers, and addresses several controversial issues. The Supreme Court’s ruling in Janus v. AFSCME, 585 U.S. ___ (2018), however, could represent a significant reduction in the power of public-sector unions. A lawsuit filed by several union members against their union and various state government officials argues that Janus invalidates certain provisions of the WDEA. Thulen, et al v. AFSCME, et al, No. 1:18-cv-14584, complaint (D.N.J., Oct. 3, 2018). The lawsuit is among the first to test how Janus will impact New Jersey employees’ rights.

Federal and state laws protect workers’ rights to organize for the purpose of collective bargaining, and either to form a union or to join an existing union that can negotiate with management on their behalf. The WDEA declares that any public sector union chosen as “the exclusive representatives of employees in a collective negotiations unit” must “hav[e] access to and be[] able to communicate with the employees it represents.” P.L. 2018, c. 15 § 2 (N.J. Rev. Stat. § 34:13A-5.12). The law requires public employers to allow union representatives to have reasonable access to employees, and to provide certain employee information to the union within a specified time frame.

Public-sector union members may authorize their employer to deduct union membership dues from their paychecks. The WDEA provision at issue in Thulen involves a restriction on employees’ ability to withdraw authorization for this payroll deduction. An employee may only withdraw authorization by giving written notice to the employer “during the 10 days following each anniversary date of their employment.” Id. at § 6, amending N.J. Rev. Stat. § 52:14-15.9e.

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The role of labor unions in the modern economy is often a controversial issue. It is exceedingly difficult to deny, however, that they have improved working conditions for employees in New Jersey and around the country. Today’s unions are arguably victims of their own success, as many people no longer see them as necessary. Workers nevertheless still benefit from the ability to bargain collectively with their employers. Federal and state laws protect workers’ ability to organize for purposes of collective bargaining, but many states have enacted laws that limit unions in important ways. A recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, Janus v. AFSCME, 585 U.S. ___ (2018), specifically impacts public sector unions and their ability to collect fees to support their collective bargaining activities. If you have a question about your union, contact a New Jersey labor law attorney.

The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) of 1935 allows workers to organize in order to engage in collective bargaining with their employer regarding pay, working conditions, and other features of employment. See 29 U.S.C. § 157. Union members support these activities by paying membership fees. Workers who do not become dues-paying members often still benefit from the union’s efforts. This is commonly known as the “free rider problem.” Some unions dealt with this by negotiating “closed shop” agreements, by which the employer could only hire union members; or “union shop” agreements, which required all employees to join the union or pay an “agency fee” once they had been hired.

The Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 banned closed shop agreements, and only allowed union shop agreements or agency fees to the extent that they do not conflict with state law. Id. at § 164(b). Many states have enacted “right to work” laws, which prohibit unions from charging agency fees to non-members.

In addition to collective bargaining activities, unions may also engage in political activities like contributing to campaigns that support their goals. Political disagreements are often a reason why individual employees do not want to join a union. Public employees have raised First Amendment challenges to agency fees payable to public sector unions. The Supreme Court allowed such agreements, provided that agency fees were used solely for “collective bargaining, contract administration, and grievance adjustment purposes,” in Abood v. Detroit Bd. of Educ., 431 U.S. 209, 232 (1977).

The plaintiff in Janus objected to paying dues to a public sector union in Illinois “because he opposes many of the public policy positions that [it] advocates.” Janus, slip op. at 4 (internal quotations omitted). He filed a lawsuit claiming violation of his First Amendment rights. Amid various challenges to public sector agency fees, his case made its way to the Supreme Court. In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled in the plaintiff’s favor. It held that public sector union agency fees “violate[] the free speech rights of nonmembers by compelling them to subsidize private speech on matters of substantial public concern.” Id. at 1.

The ruling expressly overrules Abood. While the court acknowledges that public sector unions will lose revenue as a result of this ruling, it states that it must balance those losses “against the considerable windfall that unions have received under Abood for the past 41 years.” Id. at 47.

If you are involved in a dispute with your employer in New Jersey or New York, the Resnick Law Group’s employment attorneys are here to help you. Please contact us at 973-781-1204, at 646-867-7997, or online today to schedule a confidential consultation to see how we can help you.

More Blog Posts:

NLRB Considers Revisiting 2014 Ruling Regarding Employer Restrictions on Use of Company Email by Employees in New Jersey and Nationwide, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, September 28, 2018

New Jersey Continues to Reject “Right to Work” Laws, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, September 4, 2018

NLRB Addresses the Question of When the NLRA Protects Employees’ Statements on Social Media, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, March 18, 2014

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The term “gig economy” has entered common usage in recent years. It broadly refers to alternatives, of sorts, to having a single 9-to-5 employer. This includes rideshare or delivery services, and services ranging from childcare to odd jobs through online platforms. It also includes selling goods through online marketplaces, and most kinds of freelance work. One supposed advantage of the gig economy is that it provides greater flexibility for workers than the traditional workplace. It also comes with certain disadvantages, including a lack of legal protections when compared to the traditional definition of “employment.” This summer, the New York Times reported on several studies examining the gig economy. While most of the workforce still holds traditional jobs, the gig economy is growing. The studies provide nationwide information, not figures on employment in New Jersey or any other specific state. As this type of work arrangement becomes more common, our system of employment laws may have to catch up. Speak to a New Jersey employment lawyer to discuss any questions you might have.

Minimum wage and overtime laws are among workers’ most important legal protections, but state and federal laws only apply to people who meet a specific definition of an “employee.” The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) establishes a national minimum wage, overtime requirements, and limits on child labor. Its definition of an “employee” is simply “any individual employed by an employer.” 29 U.S.C. § 203(e)(1). Gig economy workers are often considered to be independent contractors instead of employees, for FLSA purposes. The extent to which the FLSA’s minimum wage and overtime requirements apply to gig economy workers is a matter of ongoing dispute, with courts deciding cases in both directions and the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently changing its position on the issue.

New Jersey’s Wage Payment Law expressly states that it only applies to “employees,” which it defines as “any person suffered or permitted to work by an employer.” N.J. Rev. Stat. § 34:11-4.1. The statute specifically excludes independent contractors from that definition. The state’s Wage and Hour Law has a similar definition of “employee,” but without the specific exclusion of independent contractors. Id. at § 34:11-56a1(h). State regulations establish a test for determining whether an employee has been misclassified as an independent contractor. N.J.A.C. § 12:56-16.1. See also Hargrove v. Sleepy’s, LLC, 106 A.3d 449 (N.J. 2015).

A June 2018 report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), part of the DOL, found that about ten percent of the U.S. workforce works in “alternative work arrangements.” It defines this term to include “workers who are identified as independent contractors, independent consultants, or freelance workers,” whether they are paid a salary or are considered self-employed. A report issued around the same time by the Federal Reserve, on the other hand, found that more than one-third of the workforce participates in the “gig economy,” which it defines as “independent workers and short-term contracts.” This includes people working in the gig economy full-time and those who take gigs to supplement their income.

If you are involved in a dispute with an employer in New Jersey or New York, the Resnick Law Group’s employment attorneys are available to help you. Please contact us at 973-781-1204, at 646-867-7997, or online today to schedule a confidential consultation with a member of our skilled and experienced team.

More Blog Posts:

Equal Pay Law Takes Effect in New Jersey, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, September 20, 2018

FLSA Collective Action Alleges Failure to Pay Overtime by New Jersey Hospital, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, August 10, 2018

Congress Passes Law Protecting Tipped Employees in New Jersey and Nationwide, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, May 3, 2018

Photo Credit: andia / Shutterstock.com

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Organized labor, usually in the form of labor unions, is responsible for countless improvements in working conditions in New Jersey and throughout the country. The first half of the twentieth century saw the most improvements, as unions and their members fought—often literally—for reasonable hours, workplace safety, and better pay and benefits. Union membership has declined significantly in the past fifty years, however. One reason is a well-organized campaign that advocates for laws limiting the influence of unions in the workplace. These laws often go by the rather Orwellian name “right-to-work.” Voters in Missouri recently rejected a right-to-work law enacted by the state legislature and signed by the governor. Still, at least twenty-seven states have enacted right-to-work laws. New Jersey remains very favorable towards unions, with both laws and court decisions that affirm unions’ importance to the modern workplace.

Unions are able to negotiate on behalf of workers through collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) between a union and an employer. In order to understand how right-to-work laws affect unions’ ability to negotiate effectively, it is important to understand how unions have sought to ensure that they are able to speak for as many workers as possible. Some CBAs have, in the past, created “closed shops,” which means that employers could only hire union members. A “union shop” refers to an employer that, under the terms of a CBA, must require employees to join the union as a condition of employment.

One of the main objections to these types of arrangements involves the obligation of workers to join a union and pay dues, even if they do not agree with the union’s positions on various issues. The counter-argument to this is that all employees of a particular employer are likely to benefit from a union’s work, including those who are not members of the union. This is known as the “free rider problem.” Some union-shop CBAs, rather than requiring all employees to join the union, require workers who do not want to join to pay an “agency fee.”

The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) of 1935 is the main federal statute dealing with labor organizing and interactions between employers and labor unions. Amendments to the NLRA in the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 effectively banned closed shops by stating that employees have a right to “refrain” from any activity protected by the statute, and by prohibiting unions from coercing employees who choose to refrain. 29 U.S.C. §§ 157, 158(b). While the NLRA, after Taft-Hartley, still allowed union shops and agency fees, it also allowed states to enact their own laws.

State right-to-work laws, made possible by Taft-Hartley, prohibit union-shop clauses in CBAs, including requirements to pay agency fees. This significantly diminishes the influence of unions by allowing “free riders” to avoid contributing financially to union activities that benefit them.

The origin of the term “right-to-work” is unclear. Supporters of right-to-work laws do not appear to make much effort to explore the history of the term. Opponents of such laws, on the other hand, have delved into this history rather extensively. At best, “right-to-work” laws do not match up with the plain meaning of the words in that term. At worst, the term has a highly ignominious history.

If you are dealing with a dispute with an employer in New Jersey or New York, the employment attorneys at the Resnick Law Group are here to help you. Please contact us today at 973-781-1204, at 646-867-7997, or online to schedule a confidential consultation with a member of our experienced and knowledgeable team.

More Blog Posts:

State “Right to Work” Law Ruled Unconstitutional, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, June 28, 2016

NLRB Finds Costco’s Social Media Policy Violates Rights of Union Workers, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, November 9, 2012

New Jersey Overtime Pay: Know Your Workplace Rights, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, October 4, 2012

Photo Credit: hafakot / Shutterstock.com

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Paid sick leave is a controversial subject throughout the country. Only a handful of states require it in some form. Federal law only mandates unpaid leave. Employers tend to oppose paid sick leave laws, since these laws require them to pay their employees for time they are not at work. Advocates of paid sick leave laws point out the reality that people get sick, that they need to be able to take time to rest and recover, and that many people will come to work sick if they know that the alternative is losing needed income. Sick people who come to work instead of staying home are rarely as effective at their jobs during that time, and they risk making even more people sick. New Jersey joined the small number of states that mandate paid sick leave earlier this year, when the Legislature passed the New Jersey Paid Sick Leave Act (NJPSLA). When it takes effect on October 29, 2018, this law will apply to all employers in the state, regardless of number of employees.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), only 10 states, including New Jersey, and the District of Columbia had mandatory paid sick leave as of May 2018. Federal law contains no provisions for mandatory paid leave for any purpose, including sick leave and parental leave. Internationally, the United States is an outlier among developed nations. A 2009 study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) compared paid sick leave policies in 22 countries. With the exceptions of Japan, Australia, and New Zealand, all of the countries are located in Europe or North America. The CEPR found that the U.S. is one of only three countries, along with Canada and Japan, with no paid sick leave whatsoever at the national level. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Luxembourg and Norway provide paid sick leave for up to 50 days for serious medical conditions like cancer.

The NJPSLA differs from most state paid sick leave laws in the breadth of its coverage. It defines an “employer” as “any…entity that employs employees in the State,” with no exception for small businesses. By contrast, the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) only applies to employers with 50 or more employees, and to employees who have worked a minimum of 1,250 hours for their employer in the last 12 months. The FMLA also differs in the sense that it only requires unpaid leave.

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