Sweeney-Madden Bills To Crack Down On Employer Wage And Tax Violations, Protect Jobs For Emergency Responders Approved

TRENTON – A set of bills sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Steve Sweeney and Senate Labor Committee Chairman, Senator Fred H. Madden which would crack down on employers who are repeatedly caught paying employees off the books, and create job protections for volunteer emergency responders received final legislative approval today.

“At a time when New Jersey’s job market is struggling and unemployment rates are soaring, it’s more important than ever that employers meet their legal and moral responsibilities to their employees,” said Senator Sweeney, D-Gloucester, Cumberland and Salem. “That means an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work, and a little bit of consideration when employees put their lives on the line to defend their communities and neighbors. These bills crack down on those unscrupulous employers skirting reporting and wage laws, and offer necessary job protections to emergency responders when they’re in the line of duty.”

“Regardless of the state of the economy, employers have certain legal and ethical responsibilities to the folks who work for them,” said Senator Madden, D-Gloucester and Camden. “Whether it’s paying a fair wage, unemployment benefits, or employment taxes, or protecting jobs for first responders, we expect our employers to step up and do the right thing by their employees. These bills codify what should be standard business practices for New Jersey’s employers concerned with doing right by their employees.”

The first bill, S-2773, which was approved by the Senate by a vote of 28-9, and received final legislative approval in the Assembly by a vote of 64-13, would provide that the Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development could suspend or revoke any employer licenses held by an employer who repeatedly violates wage and tax reporting rules or fails to pay wages, benefits or taxes that they’re lawfully required to pay. The bill would require the Commissioner to first perform an audit on an employer suspected of violating wage, tax and benefits reporting and fair wage and benefits laws, and if it’s determined that the employer continued to fail to meet its legal obligations, the Commissioner could suspend or revoke any licenses that are held by the employer for a period of time determined by the Commissioner. Under the bill, the Commissioner would be required to consider the number of employees affected, the total amount of wages, benefits taxes or other contributions or assessments not paid, the duration of the violation, and other factors in setting the time period for suspension.

“When an employer pays one of their employees ‘under the table,’ they’re actually undermining the State’s unemployment and disability safety nets and undercutting employers who play by the rules,” said Senator Sweeney. “Rather than turning a blind eye to bad business practices, New Jersey regulators ought to be enforcing tough penalties for repeat offenders of the State’s wage, benefits and reporting laws. This bill would give the Commissioner of Labor the authority to crack down on those employers who constantly skirt the rules and fail to meet their legal wage, benefits, taxes and reporting requirements.”

The second bill, S-3008, which received final legislative approval today in the Senate by a vote of 37-1, and was approved by the Assembly by a vote of 76-3 in June, would prohibit employers from terminating, dismissing or suspending an employee who fails to report to work because they were actively engaged in providing voluntary emergency services in response to a declared state of emergency. The protection would only be available if the employee provided their employer with notice, at least an hour prior to the time he or she is scheduled to report to work, that he or she is engaged in rendering emergency services. The employee would also be responsible for providing their employer with a copy of the official incident report upon returning to work, as well as a certification from the incident commander or other official or officer in charge, that the employee was actively providing emergency services.

“We ought to be encouraging New Jerseyans to contribute their talents and skills to their community, not putting up barricades against volunteerism,” said Senator Madden. “By providing job protections for our brave and dedicated first responders, we’re ensuring that they’re not penalized by their employers for their service to community. We owe our State’s first responders a debt of gratitude for all they do to keep our communities safe, and job protections when they’re in the line of duty are the very least we can do for these brave individuals.”

Both bills now head to the Governor to be signed into law.