A bill (A3948) introduced on May 5, 2011 and referred to the Assembly Labor Committee would strengthen enforcement procedures and impose additional criminal sanctions against employers that fail to pay wages, compensation or benefits to their employees. An employer found to have violated the law would be required to pay the employee wages owed, plus liquidated damages equal to 100% of the wages owed. An employer found guilty of a violation also would be fined $1,000 plus a penalty of 20% of the wages owed for a first offense, and a fine of $2,500 plus a penalty of 20% of the wages owed for subsequent offenses. The bill further provides that an employer that is found to have retaliated against an employee for bringing a claim under the statute commits a disorderly persons offense and may be liable to the employee for damages.
The bill also seeks to establish new complaint procedures, providing that an employee may file a citizen complaint directly with a municipal court, and may do so using a pseudonym and the address of his or her attorney or other representative instead of his or her full name and address, if the individual is a minor or has a reasonable fear of retaliation for filing the complaint. When a citizen complaint is filed using a pseudonym, however, a second copy of the complaint must be filed with the court identifying the true identity of the individual.
The Attorney General would be required to notify the Commissioner of Labor of any employer violation of the law that results in a conviction. Upon notification of a conviction, the Commissioner may, following notice and a hearing, direct each appropriate agency to suspend any license that is issued by the agency to the employer for a period of time determined by the Commissioner. In addition, the Commissioner would be required to conduct an audit or inspection of the employer not more than 12 months after the date of the Commissioner’s written determination. If the audit reveals that the employer has continued to fail to pay wages, compensation or benefits, or if the Commissioner otherwise learns of a subsequent violation, the Commissioner, following notice and a hearing, would be required to direct each appropriate agency to permanently revoke any license issued to the employer or any successor firm.