The New Jersey Employment Law Guide

The state laws every business owner should know

Businesses must post all applicable state and federal labor law posters in the workplace.

New Jersey labor law posters to download

Federal labor law posters to download

Wages and Breaks

Minimum Wage
$10.30+

The current minimum wage in New Jersey is $11 for employers with 5 or more employees and $10.30 for employers with fewer than 5 employees, as well as seasonal and agricultural employees.

New Jersey law requires that the minimum wage be reviewed annually and that it be increased by the percentage the cost of living has changed from year to year.

If the federal minimum wage is raised to be higher than that of New Jersey, the New Jersey minimum wage will automatically increase to the higher federal rate.

The following minimum wage increases will occur unless an increase in the consumer price index requires a higher minimum wage:

Employers with 5 or more employees (except seasonal and agricultural employees):

January 1, 2021 – $12.00
January 1, 2022 – $13.00
January 1, 2023 – $14.00
January 1, 2024 – $15.00

Employers with less than 5 employees and seasonal employees:

January 1, 2021 – $11.10
January 1, 2022 – $11.90
January 1, 2023 – $12.70
January 1, 2024 – $13.50
January 1, 2025 – $14.30
January 1, 2026 – $15.00

Agricultural employees:

January 1, 2020 – $10.30
January 1, 2022 – $10.90
January 1, 2023 – $11.70
January 1, 2024 – $12.50
January 1, 2025 – $13.40
January 1, 2026 – $14.20
January 1, 2027 – $15.00

Tipped min wage
$3.13

The minimum wage for tipped employees is $3.13.

The tipped minimum wage will increase as follows:

January 1, 2021 – $4.13
January 1, 2024 – $5.13

If the employee does not receive enough tips to ensure they are paid the standard minimum wage, the employer must pay the difference.

Employers are allowed to require employees to participate in a tip pooling arrangement.

Overtime
1.5X

Non-exempt employees must be paid an overtime rate of 1 ½ times the regular rate of pay for hours worked in excess of 40 in one workweek.

The federal overtime rule stipulates that the minimum salary requirement for administrative, professional, and executive exemptions is $684 per week, or $35,568 per year.

Breaks
None

Employers are not required to provide breaks to employees 18 years of age or older.

If an employer chooses to provide a break longer than 20 minutes, it does not need to be paid as long as the employee is free to leave the premises and does not perform work. Under federal law, breaks less than 20 minutes long should be paid.

Lactating employees must be provided with a private place that is close to their work area to express milk, and reasonable break time to do so. If standard paid breaks are provided, time taken in excess of those breaks may be unpaid.

Minor breaks
30 min per 5 hrs

Employers are required to provide employees under the age of 18 with a 30-minute meal break for every 5 consecutive hours worked.

All minors are prohibited from working more than 6 days in a row.

Final Paychecks

Employees who separate from employment for any reason must be paid their final paycheck no later than the scheduled payday for the period during which the separation occurred.

Employees who are compensated by an incentive system must be paid a reasonable approximation of wages due until the exact amount that is owed can be computed.

If an employee is suspended as a result of a labor dispute and the dispute involves payroll-processing employees, the employer has an additional 10 days to pay the due wages.

Child Labor

Breaks

All minors are prohibited from working more than 6 days in a row. All minors must be given a meal break of 30 minutes after 5 continuous working hours.

Minors 14 and 15 years of age

During school weeks, they may work no more than 18 hours a week, no more than 3 hours per day on school days, no more than 8 hours per day on the weekends. They may only work between the hours of 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.

During non-school weeks, they may work no more than 40 hours per week, no more than 8 hours per day, no more than 6 consecutive days in a pay week. They may not work before 7 am or after 7 pm during school year. They may work between the hours of 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. from the last day of school to Labor Day with written permission from a parent.

Minors 16 and 17 years of age

During both school weeks and non-school weeks, they may work no more than 40 hours per week, no more than 8 hours per day, no more than 6 consecutive days in a pay week. They may work between the hours of  6 a.m. and 11 p.m. On Fridays and Saturdays or days not followed by a school day, they may work between the hours of 6 a.m. and midnight.

In restaurants and seasonal amusements, they may work until 3 a.m. with written permission from a parent.

Leave Requirements

Sick days

Most New Jersey employers are required to provide paid sick leave.

For every 30 hours worked, the employee shall accrue one hour of earned sick leave.

The employer is not required to permit the employee to accrue more than 40 hours of earned sick leave in any benefit year.

Family and medical leave

New Jersey Family Leave Act requires employers with 30 or more employees to provide up to 12 weeks (during a 24-month period) of leave for eligible employees to care for a family member or bond with a new child.

Employers may also be required to provide employees unpaid leave in accordance with the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.

Bereavement leave

Employers are not required to provide bereavement leave.

Vacation time

Employers are not required to provide paid or unpaid vacation leave but must comply with their own established policies if they choose to implement one.

Holiday leave

Private employers are not required to provide holiday leave.

Jury Duty

An employer is not required to provide paid time off for an employee to serve on a jury or respond to a jury summons, but the employee cannot be penalized for doing so.

Voting time

New Jersey does not require employers to provide leave.

Witness Leave

Employers in New Jersey cannot take any adverse action against an employee for providing information or testifying before a public body. Employers are not required to pay for witness leave.

Domestic Violence or Sexual Assault Leave

Employers that have at least 25 employees must provide up to 20 days of leave to an employee who is or whose family member is a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault within the past year.

To be eligible, employees must have worked for the employer for 12 months and have worked at least 1,000 hours in the previous 12 months.

Emergency Response Leave

Employers must allow the following employees to take leave to serve as a voluntary emergency responding during a state of emergency: An active member in good standing of a volunteer fire company; A volunteer member of a duly incorporated first aid, rescue, or ambulance squad; A member of any county or municipal volunteer Office of Emergency Management.

Military Leave

Employees who take military leave are entitled to return to their job after their service. For one year, the employer may not discharge the employee without cause.

Hiring, firing, and more

Discrimination

Federal law makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate on the basis of: Race, Color, Age, Sex, Sexual orientation, Gender, Gender identity, Religion, National origin, Pregnancy, Genetic information, including family medical history, Physical or mental disability, Child or spousal support withholding, Military or veteran status, Citizenship and/or immigration status.

Additionally, New Jersey law makes it illegal to discriminate on the basis of: Use of a service animal; Marital status, including domestic partnerships and civil unions; Atypical hereditary cellular or blood trait; Unemployment status; Exercise of civil rights; Wage garnishment for consumer debt; Source of lawful income for rent or mortgage payments; AIDS/HIV; Display of the American flag in the workplace; Status as a smoker or non-smoker.

Employers may not require employees to attend or participate in any communications about religious or political matters. Employers also have an obligation under state law to accommodate employees’ religious beliefs, such as allowing time off for religious holidays or the Sabbath.

Under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, New Jersey employers must provide reasonable accommodations upon the request of a pregnant employee. This requirement goes beyond the ADA and federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) requirements. The employee’s request must be based upon physician advice and the employer will not be required to provide the accommodation if they can show that doing so would cause an undue hardship.

New Jersey law makes it illegal to pay employees in a protected class less than those who are not when they do substantially similar work. An employee does not need to be paid less because they are part of protected class for a violation to occur – intent is not necessary. To determine if work is substantially similar, employers should consider the skill, effort, and responsibility required

Click here to read our blog on what acceptable and unacceptable questions to ask during an interview.

Termination

New Jersey is an employment-at-will state, which means that without a written employee contract, employees can be terminated for any reason at any time, provided that the reason is not discriminatory and that the employer is not retaliating against the employee for a rightful action.

In the case of layoffs or workforce reductions, New Jersey has notice and severance payment requirements for certain employers going through business closings and mass layoffs. These requirements apply to employers that have been in business for at least three years and have at least 100 full-time employees. These employers must provide 60 days’ written notice to the following people or entities:

Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development
The chief elected official of the municipality where the business is located
Each affected employee
Any collective bargaining unit of employees

A “mass layoff” means a reduction in force that results in job loss for at least 30 days of at least 50 employees (if they comprise one-third of all employees) or 500 employees (regardless of proportion of the workforce). If the employer does not provide notice at least 60 days in advance, they must pay severance pay equal to one week of pay for each full year of employment.

The notice must contain the following information: The number of affected employees; The date(s) of the mass layoff or closing; The reasons for the mass layoff or closing; Whether work is available to employees at another site or establishment of the employer and, if so, information regarding the benefits, pay, and other terms and conditions of that employment and the location of the available work; Whether employees are entitled to wages, severance pay, benefits, pension, or other terms of employment as they relate to the mass layoff or closing; The amount of any severance pay. The notice must also include a statement of the following employees’ rights: The response team services regarding information, referral, and counseling about public programs that might delay or prevent the closing or mass layoff; Public programs and benefits to assist employees; Employee rights based on law.

Record Keeping

Regarding employment and payroll data, under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and others, you must:

For at least 3 years: keep payroll records, certificates, agreements, notices, collective bargaining agreements, employment contracts, and sales and purchase records. Also keep completed copies of each employee’s I-9 for three years after they are hired. If the employee works longer than three years, hold on to the form for at least one year after the employee leaves. 

For at least 2 years: Keep basic employment and earning records like timecards, wage-rate tables, shipping and billing records, and records of additions to or deductions from wages. Also keep the records that show why you may pay different wages to employees of different sexes, such as wage rates, job evaluations, seniority and merit systems, and collective bargaining agreements.

For at least 1 year: The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says employers should keep all employment records for at least one year from the employee’s date of termination. 

Other record-keeping laws that may apply to you: 

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, you need to keep records of job-related injuries and illnesses for five years. But some records, like those covering toxic substance exposure, have to be kept for 30 years.

You must keep files of benefit plans and seniority and merit systems while they are in effect and for at least a year after they end. You must also retain summary descriptions and annual reports of benefits plans for six years.

If your company is covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act, you must also retain relevant records of leaves, notices, policies, and more for three years. 

Additional laws that may apply to you

Pay Practices

Employers must pay their employees at least semimonthly on regular paydays the employer chooses in advance. Some employees, such as those in bona fide executive positions, may be paid monthly on regular paydays designated in advance.

Employers may round an employee’s time to the nearest 5, 6, or 15 minutes as long as employees are paid for all the time they actually work.

New employees must be informed of their rate of pay and when they will be paid. Employees must be given advance notice if their rate or payday is going to change.

Background Checks

Employers who run background checks should ensure they’re following the requirements of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which are available here.

New Jersey requires that employers conduct background checks on the following types of employees: School bus drivers; Those in a check-cashing business; Childcare center personnel, including volunteers.

Credit and Investigative Checks

Before taking an adverse employment action against an applicant or employee because of a credit report, even in part, an employer must give them a copy of the report and a written description of their rights under the New Jersey Fair Credit Reporting Act and the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act.

Arrest and Convictions Checks

New Jersey has a “Ban the Box” law called the Opportunity to Compete Act. Under the Act, employers with 15 or more employees in 20 or more calendar weeks per year may not ask applicants about their criminal histories until after the first interview. Employers may not consider expunged records at any point in the hiring process. Additionally, job posting or advertisements may not indicate that applicants will be excluded on the basis of their criminal histories.

Lactation Accommodation

Lactating employees must be provided with a private place that is close to their work area to express milk, and reasonable break time to do so. If standard paid breaks are provided, time taken in excess of those breaks may be unpaid.

Whistleblower Protection

Employers in New Jersey may not discharge or discriminate against an employee for doing any of the following: Reporting, opposing, or refusing to participate in what they reasonably believe to be a violation of the law or public policy; Exercising their rights under the Worker and Community Right to Know Act; Reporting a violation of the Family Leave Act; Filing a complaint or participating in a proceeding under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination; Asking a co-worker about their job title, job category, pay or benefits, gender, race, ethnicity, military status, or national origin.

COBRA

COBRA is a federal law that allows many employees to continue their health insurance benefits after their employment ends. Because federal COBRA only applies to employers that have 20 or more employees, many states have adopted their own versions of the law, which are known as “mini-COBRAs.” New Jersey’s mini-COBRA allows employees to continue their coverage for up to 18 months. Employers must inform an employee as soon as a triggering event occurs.

Salary History Inquiry Ban

It is illegal for an employer to ask about a prospective employee’s current or past compensation at any point during the hiring process. Employers also may not use current or past compensation to satisfy minimum or maximum requirements or to determine whether to interview a candidate. If salary information is volunteered, the law says it can be used to help determine the candidate’s compensation.

Employee Monitoring

Employers may not listen to or record any oral, wire, or electronic communications of their employees unless at least one party to the communication consents.

Social Media

It is illegal for a New Jersey employer to do the following: Requesting or requiring current or prospective employees to provide usernames or passwords to their personal internet accounts, including social networking accounts. Require current or prospective employees to add the employer or any other person as a contact or change their privacy settings. Retaliate against employees who refuse to disclose their access information to personal accounts.

Medical Marijuana

Employers may not discriminate against an applicant or employee based solely on their status as a medical cannabis cardholder. If an applicant or employee tests positive for THC, the employer must provide them written notice of their right to present a legitimate medical explanation for the positive test result or request a retest of the original sample at the applicant’s or employee’s own expense. The applicant or employee then has three working days to provide their health care practitioner’s authorization for medical cannabis or a registry identification card. Exceptions to these employment protections are if the employee uses or possesses cannabis during work, if the employer would violate federal law, or if the employer would lose a federal license, a federal contract, or federal funding.

Compliance Calendar

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 Remember

This summary is not qualified legal advice. Laws are always subject to change, and they can vary from municipality to municipality. It’s up to you to make sure you’re compliant with all laws and statutes in your area. If you need more compliance help, we recommend consulting with a qualified lawyer, checking with your local government agencies, or signing up for Homebase to get help from our certified HR Pros. 

Additional Resources