New Jersey labor laws apply the mandates set out in the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). This law sets a minimum national standard for minimum wage and overtime laws. While states can adopt greater protections than those offered by the FLSA, they cannot go below the minimum.
If they do not wish to strengthen the protections, they simply accept the federal standards. New Jersey employment laws largely rely on the FLSA.
Federal Fair Labor Standards Act
The Fair Labor Standards Act was enacted in 1938 to set minimum work conditions for employees in the United States. The law applies nationally and covers both workers in the private sector and in the public sector, like those working for federal, state or local government agencies.
The FLSA only covers "nonexempt" employees. Specified classes of workers, described in the FSLA, are deemed exempt from the legal protections. These exempt classifications narrow down the number of workers who can rely on the benefits of the FLSA, including minimum wage and overtime rules. These exemptions can be difficult to apply, however.
Most Important FLSA Benefits
Nonexempt employees in every state benefit from the FLSA minimum standards. The two primary benefits include the federally established minimum wage law and the rules around overtime pay, when overtime must be paid and how it must be calculated. The FSLA also covers restrictions on the employment of children and record-keeping rules.
All states have the right to modify these labor laws, but the protections can only be enlarged, not reduced, from those offered by the federal law. If the state standards differ from those set out in the FLSA, it is the standard that offers an employee greater protection that applies.
If, however, states enact labor laws on subjects not mentioned in the FLSA, these apply to workers in their state. For example, the federal law does not mention the right to a paid vacation, but a state can enact legislation mandating this.
New Jersey Minimum Wage Laws
The federal minimum wage rate is not a permanent one, and it has been increased more than once since 1938. The last increase was effective in 2009, raising the minimum hourly wage to $7.25 per hour. Congress has not seen fit to raise this amount since, although the cost of living has risen quite a bit.
To compensate for this, many states have enacted minimum wage laws that are higher than the federal amount, and this has been the case with New Jersey law. Legislation signed into law in 2019 gradually raises the state's minimum wage from $8.60 to $15 an hour. As of January 1, 2022, it was upped to $13 an hour.
Different Minimum Wages in Certain Industries
Agricultural workers have a slightly different, and longer, timetable for getting to $15 an hour. Farm workers paid by the hour or for piece work saw their minimum hourly wage increase to $11.05 in January, 2022.
Other occupations in New Jersey likewise have different wages and/or timetables for increases. For example, tipped workers' minimum cash wage rose to $5.13 an hour in 2022. If this minimum wage, plus the employee’s tips, do not meet the state minimum wage, then the employer must pay the difference to the employee.
All minimum wage amounts in New Jersey are higher than the federal minimum wage. Therefore, all New Jersey nonexempt employees can rely on state minimum wage protections.
Future New Jersey Minimum Wage Increases
In the years after 2022, the state minimum wage is scheduled to increase annually. It will rise by $1 per year for most employees until it reaches the targeted $15 an hour. For agricultural workers, the $15 will not be achieved until 2027.
The New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development is responsible for setting the minimum wage for the coming year. They must either use the rate specified in the law or a calculation based on the Consumer Price Index. They must use whichever one yields a higher minimum wage.
Once the minimum wage reaches $15 per hour, the state will continue to increase this wage every year based on any increases in the Consumer Price Index.
FLSA Overtime Laws
Overtime laws are the second major labor law protection offered by the Fair Labor Standards Act. The federal law mandates overtime compensation for nonexempt workers who work over 40 hours in a workweek.
The FLSA sets a minimum overtime rate at one and one-half times the regular hourly rate of pay of the employee. That means that if an employee regularly earns $10.00 an hour, they must be paid $15.00 per hour for every hour over 40 hours in a workweek.
Note that the FLSA does not set a mandatory workweek of 40 hours. It does not, in fact, limit the workweek at all. An employer can demand that an employee work 50 hours, 60 hours, or even more, as long as overtime is paid. The length of the workweek is considered a matter of private agreement between the employer and the employee. If the employee does not wish to work so much, they can find another job.
New Jersey Overtime Hours Rules
Some states, like California, offer employees increased overtime protections. States can require overtime wages for any hours over eight worked in one shift. California also mandates double-time for some overtime pay. Since these protections are greater than those in the FSLA, employees in California can count on them.
New Jersey labor laws do not increase the overtime benefits offered in the FSLA. They abide by the federal time and a half for all hours of work over 40 in a workweek. However, the law does limit the amount of overtime that can be required of healthcare workers.
Exempt and Nonexempt Employees
Under federal and New Jersey state laws, workers exempted from labor law protections fall into four general categories:
- Executive duties.
- Administrative duties.
- Professional duties.
- Outside sales duties.
The executive duties exemption is sometime referred to as a managerial exemption. To qualify, the worker must manage a specific department and supervise at least two full-time workers. Administrative employees are those not hired for manual work whose jobs relate directly to the general operation of the company or its customers.
Professional employees can be "learned professionals" like those who do intellectual work. They can also be creative professionals who use their imagination or talent to perform an artistic or creative job. Outside sales persons solicit or receive sales orders and work away from the company office.
- Department of Labor: FLSA
- New Jersey Department of Labor & Workforce Development:New Jersey’s Minimum Wage to Increase to $13/Hour for Most Employees on Jan. 1
- New Jersey.gov; Minimum Wage Postcard
- FindLaw: New Jersey Overtime
- Department of Labor and Workforce Development: NJ State Mandatory Overtime Restrictions for Health Care Facilities
Teo Spengler earned a JD from U.C. Berkeley Law School. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an MA and an MFA in English/writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.