Many different laws, both federal and state, regulate how employers treat employees, potential hires and even former employees. Here are a few to be aware of in New Jersey.
Employers may neither choose interview candidates nor make hiring decisions based on discriminatory factors, such as age, race or gender. Interviewers also may not ask about other personal things, such as:
- Whether you're married
- Where you were born
- Disabilities irrelevant to your ability to do the job
New Jersey Wage Laws
The state's wage and overtime laws follow the federal government's Fair Labor Standards Act. This act sets a minimum hourly wage that most companies must pay most workers. It also requires overtime pay at a rate of one and a half times base pay for working more than 40 hours per week.
Safe Working Conditions
Under the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act, private sector employees in the state are entitled to working conditions that do threaten their health or lives. A similar state program protects public employees.
The programs also protect you from retaliation by your employer for reporting unsafe conditions.
Workers' Compensation Insurance
This is a mandatory insurance employers must carry for all employees, with few exceptions. If you are injured at work, the program will pay medical bills, a percentage of wages until you can return to work and permanent disability compensation as necessary.
Most companies are required to provide time off in certain situations.
The federal Family and Medical Leave Act guarantees 12 weeks of unpaid leave every year to many employees who need it for their own serious health condition, to care for a new baby and certain other reasons.
New Jersey laws offers similar protections and also require up to six weeks of paid leave for specific reasons.
Hostile Work Environment
You may be aware that sexual harassment is illegal, but so are all other forms of harassment. Harassing behavior is any unwanted verbal or physical behavior based on a discriminatory factor (age or race, for example) that the offending person refuses to stop doing.
Quitting and Getting Fired
Like most states, New Jersey is an at-will employment state, meaning that for the most part, either side can end the relationship without a good reason. There are a few exceptions for employers, who cannot fire you based on things like age or race. They also can't fire employees who have a contract, whether written or implied.
You are always entitled to your final paycheck, and you may also be entitled to unused vacation time if your company has a policy or history of including it in final paychecks.
After You Leave Your Job
Some employees are entitled to certain benefits even after employment ends. Two important ones are:
- Unemployment benefits—These are generally available if it was not your fault you lost your job. You will receive a percentage of your previous pay.
- COBRA—Both federal and state programs exist to allow you to keep your group health coverage for up to 18 months.
Talking with an Employment Lawyer
Employment law covers many different aspects of the employer/employee relationship and changes often. For specific advice, contact a New Jersey employment lawyer.