Norris, McLaughlin & Marcus

New EEOC Guidelines on Religious Garb and Grooming in the Workplace

On March 6, 2014, the EEOC issued two new publications addressing rights and responsibilities regarding religious dress and grooming in the workplace under Title VII.  Given the steady increase in charges of religious discrimination filed with the EEOC, it is hoped that these practical guidelines will assist employers in complying with the law.

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LEGISLATIVE UPDATE: Governor Christie Signs Law Prohibiting Pregnancy Discrimination

On January 8, 2014, we reminded New Jersey employers about a pending bill (S-2995/A-4486) that would amend the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination by adding a provision prohibiting discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.

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Employers Publishing Job Ads Beware

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Earlier this week, the New Jersey Appellate Division upheld the constitutionality of a New Jersey law forbidding companies from discriminating against unemployed job candidates. 

N.J.S.A. 34:8B-1 prohibits employers from publishing an advertisement stating that a job applicant must be currently employed for their applications to be accepted, considered, or reviewed. The law was passed in 2011 during the economic downturn when laid off workers were seeking jobs and faced additional roadblocks when they found that companies would not consider their applications if they were unemployed.

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Highlighting 2013 and Looking Ahead to 2014 for New Jersey Employers

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Happy New Year! As New Jersey employers ready themselves for the coming year, we’re taking a quick look back on 2013 and then looking ahead to some potential developments employers should keep an eye on throughout 2014.

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New Employment Obligations for the New Year

As the new year approaches, employers should prepare for changes and new employment obligations that go into effect in January 2014 on both the state and federal level.

New Jersey employers should be reminded that, effective January 1, 2014, the minimum wage increases to $8.25 per hour.  Each September thereafter, the minimum wage will be automatically adjusted based on changes to the Consumer Price Index, and any additional changes will become effective on the following January 1.  If you have employees who work outside of New Jersey, be sure to check these local laws too, as a number of other states have also implemented changes to their respective minimum wage laws.  New York, for example, is increasing its minimum wage to $8.00 per hour effective December 31, 2014, and will increase the minimum wage in each of the following 2 years.

Beginning January 6, 2014, New Jersey employers will also be required to post and distribute a new poster on gender equity in pay, compensation, benefits or other terms or conditions of employment.  The New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development has published the gender equity poster on its website in both English and Spanish.

New Jersey Gender Equity Poster (English)

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New Jersey Bill to Extend Workplace Protections to Unpaid Interns

Called slave labor by some and invaluable learning experiences by others, unpaid internships have, for the most part, been considered outside the aegis of workplace laws protecting employees from harassment, discrimination, and retaliation.  However, that may soon change in New Jersey.

On December 5, 2013, New Jersey State Senator Nia H. Gill introduced bill S-3064, which amends three existing New Jersey laws—the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, the Conscientious Employee Protection Act, and the Worker Freedom from Employer Intimidation Act— to extend the laws’ protections and remedies to unpaid interns.

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Termination: How to Achieve a Valid Release

Recently, the New Jersey Appellate Division reversed a trial court decision which had dismissed plaintiff’s claims under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”) because plaintiff had signed a release of all claims.  The appellate court determined that the release was not “knowing and voluntary.”  The decision is a primer for employers who want to obtain a valid and enforceable release from employees who are terminated.

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The New Jersey Security and Financial Empowerment (NJ SAFE) Act Poster

Earlier this year, we reported on the New Jersey Security and Financial Empowerment Act (the “NJ SAFE Act”), a new law which provides unpaid leave to New Jersey employees who suffer from domestic violence or sexually violent offenses. The NJ SAFE Act takes effect on October 1, 2013.

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New Law Allows Employees to Freely Discuss Pay, Compensation, and Benefits

On August 29, 2013, Governor Chris Christie signed into law an amendment to the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“NJLAD”).  An earlier version of this bill had been conditionally vetoed by the Governor.

The amendment to the NJLAD bars employers from retaliating against employees who ask their co-workers or former co-workers for information about their job title, occupational category, pay or benefits, or make inquiry about the gender, race, ethnicity, military status or national origin of any employee or former employee of the employer, if the request is made to assist in investigating the possibility of, or in taking legal action reporting, potential discriminatory treatment concerning pay, compensation or benefits.  The prohibition against retaliation applies whether or not the request was responded to and does not require any employee to disclose such information about him/herself.

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New Employee Leave Law for Victims of Domestic Violence or Sexual Assault

On July 17, 2013, Governor Chris Christie signed into law the New Jersey Security and Financial Empowerment Act  (“NJ SAFE Act”).  New Jersey now joins over a dozen other states to provide leave for employees who suffer from domestic violence or sexually violent offenses.  The law applies to employers with 25 or more employees.  Employees must work at least a year and for at least 1,000 hours before they are eligible for such leave.  The law is scheduled to go into effect on October 1, 2013.

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