New Jersey is trying to out-California California

2014-12-20 15 44 54 Welcome To New Jersey sign in front of the New Jersey Department of Transportation Headquarters in Ewing, New Jersey

It’s kind of like one of those “your mama is so fat” one-up challenges I always used to giggle at on the school bus back in seventh grade. Except, instead of outdoing each other with “your mama” jokes, it’s employee-friendly legislation. And, no one is laughing.

Here’s what may be on tap for NJ workplaces.

No more salary history questions

Back in March of 2016 this bill was introduced. Like a similar bill in Philadelphia, it would preclude employers from asking job applicants about their salary history. Since then, this measure has gained some momentum. At the beginning of this month, it was reported from Senate Committee after a second reading.

Bigger penalties for wage-and-hour violations

This bill introduced in the middle of last month what increase certain penalties for violations of state wage-and-hour law New Jersey. Essentially, it raises the dollar amounts of the fines for employers that fail to keep certain records, falsify records or otherwise interfere with a wage-and-hour investigation conducted by the State.

Jury trials are sacrosanct.

Just out of committee, this bill would forbid employers from requiring an individual to waive the right to any jury trial otherwise afforded by statute, rule or regulation, as a condition of hiring, continued employment or compensation or a term, condition or privilege of employment.

Enhancements of family leave, family temporary disability leave, and domestic or sexual violence safety leave

Finally, this bill would beef up some already strong state leave laws. Michael Booth reporting here at NJ Law Journal has a good summary of the changes, which I’ve listed below:

  • Increase the maximum number of weeks of family temporary disability leave benefits from six to 12 weeks.
  • Provide that family temporary disability leave benefits for bonding with a newborn or an adopted child may be taken on an intermittent basis.
  • Increase intermittent leave from 42 days to 84 days—which, proponents say, can help parents and caretakers stay at work on a part-time basis while still caring for an ill relative or bond with a newborn.
  • Expand the weekly cap for benefits under the program from the current $633 to up to $932 per week, depending on the claimant’s income.
  • Expand the family members that may receive paid benefits to include siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, and parents-in-law. Currently, family leave benefits are only available to care for children, spouses, domestic partners, civil union partners or parents of covered individuals.
  • Allow for leave to be taken to care for a family member who has been a victim of an incident of domestic violence or a sexually violent offense.
  • Extend benefits to parents that have a child through the use of a surrogate.
  • Establish a process for a self-employed individual to pay into the program and qualify for paid family leave benefits.
  • Bar an employer from discharging, harassing, threatening, discriminating or retaliating for taking advantage of the program.
  • Allow an employee or former employee to file a civil action in the Superior Court in the case of a violation of the bill’s anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation provisions.
  • Require the state to disseminate information about the rights and responsibilities of employers and employees regarding family temporary disability benefits.
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