The issue of the proper application of the highly compensated employee exemption under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), as it applies to employees paid on a “day-rate” basis in the oil and gas industry, has been a hotly debated issue in recent years, especially in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
As we previously reported, on February 22, 2021, Governor Phil Murphy signed into law the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act (CREAMMA), which, among other things, legalized the recreational use of marijuana in New Jersey for adults age 21 and older. In addition, CREAMMA imposed on employers certain obligations with respect to marijuana and the workplace, including certain antidiscrimination and drug testing provisions.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed legislation (A5820/S3866) and Executive Order (EO) No. 244 on June 4, 2021, ending the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (but not the overall state of emergency) first declared on March 9, 2020, in EO 103.
There is light at the end of the pandemic tunnel for New Jersey employers, as the state’s COVID-19 numbers continue to decline and Governor Philip Murphy continues to ease restrictions on businesses. But this good news comes with a dose of serious bad news for New Jersey employers too. The state previously adopted amendments to the New Jersey Act (officially known as the Millville Dallas Airmotive Plant Job Loss Notification Act), which require employers to provide 90 days’ notice before the first employee is discharged as part of a mass layoff, termination of operations, or transfer of operations.
States have been busy when it comes to marijuana laws. Before the mid-2010s, employers tended not to worry about state marijuana laws because of marijuana’s illegal status under federal law. However, those days are over, and state marijuana legalization laws continue to affect how employers can run their workplaces.
The New Jersey Division on Civil Rights (DCR) is the state agency responsible for enforcement of the New Jersey Family Leave Act (NJFLA). The NJFLA provides eligible employees up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave during any 24-month period: (1) to bond with a child within 1 year of the child’s birth or placement for adoption or foster care; (2) to provide care to a family member or one who is the equivalent of a family member who has a serious health condition or has been isolated or quarantined because of suspected exposure to a communicable disease during a state of emergency; or (3) to provide care or treatment for a child if the child’s school or place of care is closed by order of a public official due to an epidemic of a communicable disease (such as COVID-19) or other public health emergency.
In November 2020, voters in five states (Arizona, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota) voted in favor of legalizing medical and/or recreational marijuana. Since then, there have been several developments within the marijuana legalization world that employers may want to keep an eye on as they move forward in 2021.
On February 22, 2021, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed into law the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act (CREAMMA). Among other things, the 240-page measure legalizes the recreational use of marijuana for adults age 21 and older and—unfortunately for employers—places significant burdens on companies doing business in New Jersey with respect to marijuana and the workplace.
Over 1,500 COVID-19–related employment lawsuits were filed in the United States in 2020. Ogletree Deakins’ Interactive COVID-19 Litigation Tracker highlights the industries impacted, locations, and types of claims in these matters.
Several states’ minimum wage rates will increase in 2021. The following chart lists the state (and certain major locality) minimum wage increases for 2021—and future years, if available—along with the related changes in the maximum tip credit and minimum cash wage for tipped employees.
On November 3, 2020, five states had initiatives on the ballot to legalize the recreational and/or medical use of marijuana, and all five initiatives easily passed. Arizona, Montana, and New Jersey voted in favor of legalizing the possession and recreational use of marijuana for adults aged 21 years and older. In addition, South Dakota became the first state to legalize both medical and recreational marijuana at the same time. Mississippi voted to legalize medical marijuana. Employers may want to consider the impact of these new laws, as well as watch for new developments.
In an effort to combat the recent rising COVID-19 numbers in the New Jersey, Governor Phil Murphy signed Executive Order (EO) No. 192 on October 28, 2020, mandating health and safety protocols for employers with employees, customers, or other visitors on-site. While many of these protocols have been required in certain industries under prior executive orders, all employers must now adhere to the protocols effective Thursday, November 5, 2020.
Elections in the United States are scheduled for Tuesday, November 3, 2020. Not only will the office of president of the United States be contested, but all 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and 35 of the 100 seats in the U.S. Senate are up for grabs. At the state level, elections will be held for the governorships of 11 U.S. states and 2 U.S. territories.
We previously reported on COVID-19–related employment lawsuits that we tracked from late March 2020 through early May 2020. Since then, the number of lawsuits has steadily risen as employers have resumed operations after shelter-in-place or stay-at-home orders were lifted and students returned to school in virtual or hybrid environments. To track this litigation and to identify trends, we developed an Interactive COVID-19 Litigation Tracker that details where COVID-19–related litigation is taking place by state, the industries affected, and the types of claims asserted against employers and educational institutions.
On September 14, 2020, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed Senate Bill (SB) 2380 into law. SB 2380 creates a rebuttable presumption of workers’ compensation coverage for COVID-19 cases contracted by “essential employees” during a public health emergency declared by an executive order of the governor. The law is effective immediately and retroactive to March 9, 2020.
In the past several years, marijuana legalization has become an increasingly difficult issue for employers to navigate. Marijuana legalization raises challenging workplace questions related to drug testing, disability accommodation, workplace safety, hiring, and employment termination, among other issues. Because of the fast-evolving nature of marijuana laws, and the wide variance in laws and protections from state to state, employers have struggled to keep up.
For the second time in a little over one month, the Supreme Court of New Jersey has issued an employer-friendly ruling upholding the enforceability of arbitration agreements in the employment context.
On May 21, 2018, in Epic Systems Corporation v. Lewis, the Supreme Court of the United States upheld class action waivers in arbitration agreements, ruling that the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) instructs “federal courts to enforce arbitration agreements according to their terms—including terms providing for individualized proceedings.” On July 14, 2020, the Supreme Court of New Jersey handed down a landmark decision of its own upholding the enforceability of employment arbitration agreements with class action waivers under the New Jersey Arbitration Act (NJAA), even if the agreements are exempted from the coverage of the FAA, by virtue of the FAA’s Section 1 “transportation worker exemption.”
In January of this year, New Jersey enacted a package of laws designed to root out and punish misclassification of employees as independent contractors.
Two weeks after announcing “The Road Back: Restoring Economic Health Through Public Health” plan, New Jersey Governor Philip Murphy signed Executive Order (EO) No. 142 on May 13, 2020, permitting non-essential construction projects and non-essential retail businesses to reopen effective 6:00 a.m. on May 18, 2020. This is Governor Murphy’s first step in restarting New Jersey’s economy since he issued the stay-at-home mandate in EO No. 107on March 21, 2020.
In response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, on April 14, 2020, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed into law Senate Bill 2374 (S2374), which amends the New Jersey Family Leave Act (NJFLA) and the New Jersey Family Leave Insurance law (NJFLI) to provide job-protected, paid leave to care for family members quarantined due to COVID-19, and amends the NJFLA to provide for job-protected unpaid leave to care for children due to COVID-19 school closures. The legislation also allows employers to seek certification relating to these expanded categories of leave, allows highly paid employees to take leave if the leave is COVID-19 related, and provides that COVID-19-related leave may be taken on an intermittent basis.
We previously reported on amendments to the New Jersey mini-WARN Act (known officially as the Millville Dallas Airmotive Plant Job Loss Notification Act ) (NJWARN), which were set to take effect on July 19, 2020. These amendments revise the NJWARN act in many significant ways.
On April 8, 2020, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed Executive Order No. 122, requiring the closure of all non-essential construction projects beginning at 8:00 p.m. on Friday, April 10, 2020. The executive order does not define “non-essential construction project”; instead, it lists the following “essential construction projects” that may continue to operate.
We recently reported that on March 21, 2020, Governor Philip D. Murphy’s Executive Order (EO) No. 107 ordered that all non-essential retail businesses close their physical locations in New Jersey until further notice effective immediately. On March 30, 2020, New Jersey expanded, for the second time, the list of essential retail businesses whose physical locations are permitted to continue operating during their normal business hours (which were originally included in EO 107’s order to close “nonessential” businesses to prevent the further spread of COVID-19).
On March 21, 2020, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy issued Executive Order No. 107 (EO 107), which ordered all nonessential retail businesses to close their physical locations in New Jersey until further notice. Then on March 24, 2020, the state expanded the list of essential retail businesses whose physical locations are permitted to continue operating during their normal business hours.
On March 25, 2020, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed Executive Order No. 110 (EO 110), which mandates the closing of all childcare centers operating in New Jersey unless they are certified as emergency childcare centers and agree to “provide child care services exclusively to ‘essential persons’ during the school closure period.”
New Jersey Governor Philip D. Murphy signed Executive Order (EO) No. 109 on March 23, 2020, suspending all “elective surgeries and invasive procedures performed on adults that are scheduled to take place after 5:00 p.m. on Friday, March 27.”
On March 21, 2020, Governor Phil Murphy signed Executive Order (EO) No. 107, requiring New Jersey residents to stay at home and closing the physical location of any non-essential retail business so long as the order stays in effect. Although their “brick-and-mortar” locations must remain closed, businesses may continue to operate their online and telephone delivery services to the extent they are licensed to do so. The order went into effect on March 21, 2020, at 9:00 p.m.
It was a busy January 2020 in Trenton, with the state enacting several new employment laws, with more apparently on the way. This is in addition to the slew of new laws adopted in 2019 impacting New Jersey employers. Here’s a summary of recent employment law developments in New Jersey just one month into 2020, a look at what may be on the way, and a recap of 2019’s changes.