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What Every New Jersey Employer Needs to Know: Personnel Practices and Policies

July 2006Cole Schotz DocketAttorney: Randi W. Kochman

An employer’s knowledge of and compliance with state and federal law governing employment practices is essential to the successful operation of any business.  In this, the second part of a two-part article, we will outline key essentials employers should have in place to ensure that their personnel practices as well as their written policies are up-to-date and compliant with ever-changing legislation.

Employee Handbooks

All employee manuals should be distributed to each employee at the same time, and the employees’ receipt of the handbook should be confirmed with the signing of an acknowledgment form.  When drafting employee manuals, employers must include all essentials, such as a general disclaimer, benefits disclaimer, EEO policy, whistle-blower policy, smoking policy, workplace violence policy, and computer usage policy.  The handbook must also include an anti-harassment policy to educate the workforce about what constitutes illegal harassment and to help insulate an employer from vicarious liability.

Required Postings

Employers are required to post certain notices in a conspicuous area in the workplace to inform employees of their rights under New Jersey and federal law.  New Jersey requires the posting of instructions for claiming unemployment benefits, a notice that the employer is subject to the NJ Unemployment Compensation and Temporary Disability laws, an abstract of the NJ Wage and Hour law, a notice outlining the employees’ rights under the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act, and a posting on Unemployment & Disability Insurance Discrimination.  Federal law requires the employer to place posters in the workplace regarding the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, the federal Minimum Wage Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Equal Employment Opportunity Act, and the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act.

Harassment Training

An employer may be held vicariously liable for the hostile work environment created by its employees even if the employer did not know about the harassment.  Fortunately, however, employers may be able to prevent such liability by exercising due care in acting to prevent the discriminatory environment.  In addition to adopting and communicating an anti-harassment policy, employers need to provide anti-harassment training to all of their supervisors, managers, and other employees to enable them to recognize, address and eliminate unlawful harassment.

Performance Evaluations

Employers should formally evaluate their employees on at least an annual basis.  In so doing, the employer should create appropriate evaluation forms which accurately and objectively measure an employee’s performance.  Employers should also properly train their supervisors regarding how to handle the review process, and be direct with those employees who have performance issues.  The evaluation form should also include an acknowledgment by the employee that he/she received the review, and reviewed it with his/her supervisor.

Wage and Hour Requirements

An employer may encounter many issues when attempting to comply with various federal and New Jersey wage and hour laws.  Under both the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 206, et seq. (“FLSA”), and the New Jersey Wage and Hour Law, N.J.S.A. 34:11-56a, et seq., employers are required to pay their employees a certain minimum wage, which is currently $6.15 per hour.  Further, the FLSA requires that employers pay certain employees overtime pay at the rate of 1½ times the employee’s regular hourly rate for every hour worked in excess of forty (40) hours in any week.  Because of the many exemptions and intricacies of wage and hour law, it is suggested that an employer contact experienced counsel to determine if they are compensating their employees in compliance with the law.

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