New Jersey Prevailing Wage Attorney
The New Jersey Department of Department of Labor and Workforce Development Division of Wage and Hour Compliance regulates workplace labor standards and enforces labor laws concerning conditions of employment and the payment of wages. If an employee feels they have not been properly paid by their employer, or if an employer is faced with an employee lawsuit due to a dispute about wages, a New Jersey prevailing wage attorney at Einhorn Harris can help in:
- Filing or defending wage claims;
- Advising clients with regard to the investigative and litigation process; and
- Educating clients on minimum and prevailing wage rates, among other issues and concerns.
If you are an employer or a complainant, you have the right to appeal a decision or outcome of a Division of Wage and Hour investigation. Your attorney will help you work with the Division of Wage and Hour Compliance to resolve the dispute. Contact us online or by phone at 973-627-7300 to schedule a consultation.
In the state of New Jersey, the hourly minimum wage is currently $8.44 per hour. Additional wage regulation is provided by The New Jersey Prevailing Wage Act, which protects construction workers such as carpenters, plumbers, power equipment operators, and laborers. The law states that “Covered workers must receive the appropriate craft prevailing wage rate [basic hourly rate of pay and benefits] as determined by the Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development.”
When a person’s earnings are withheld by an employer to pay a debt, this is called “Wage Garnishment.” Title III of the Consumer Credit Protection Act (CCPA) applies to everyone who receives personal earnings, including but not limited to wages, commissions and bonuses, and to their employers. The law prohibits an employer “… from discharging an employee whose earnings have been subject to garnishment for any one debt, regardless of the number of levies made or proceedings brought to collect it.” Title III also limits the amount of earnings that may be garnished in any one week. But if the employee’s earnings are subject to garnishment for a second, third or subsequent debts, that employee is no longer protected from discharge.
In New Jersey, garnishment shall not exceed: (a) 10% of your gross salary when the same shall equal or exceed the amount of $217.50 per week; or (b) 25% of your disposable earnings for that week; or (c) the amount, if any, by which your disposable weekly earnings exceed $217.50, whichever shall be the least.
With the exception of executives, administrators and professionals, in New Jersey employees who work more than 40 hours a week must receive “time and a half,” (one and one half times the regular wage), for every hour worked in excess of 40. Whether employees are paid by the hour or they receive a salary (unless exempt), they are entitled to receive overtime pay.
If you believe your employer has failed to pay you for overtime, which is your right, contact a New Jersey prevailing wage attorney at Einhorn Harris. Our attorneys are experienced in working with individuals or employers in disputes involving the violation of rights with regard to overtime pay.
We also advise employers with regard to the state and federal statutes governing their responsibilities to employees who work overtime and defend employers when they must appear in court or any administrative agency.
New Jersey Prevailing Wage Act FAQs
New Jersey Prevailing Wage Act: When Does an Employer Need to Pay Prevailing Wages and What are the Prevailing Wage Rates?
The prevailing wage rate is designed to protect union contractors from non-union competitors who under-bid public works projects. The prevailing wage is a minimum wage rate required to be paid to workers under a public works contract. Frequently, public works contractors confuse whether prevailing wages are required on a project and, if so, the amount required to be paid to its workers. All contractors subject to the Prevailing Wage Act must register with the State of New Jersey. Below are answers to the most common questions on the prevailing wage law:
What projects are subject to prevailing wages?
Prevailing wages must be paid when there is a contract between a public body and a contractor to perform certain “public works” projects. “Public work” is defined as construction, reconstruction, demolition, alteration, custom fabrication, or repair work, or maintenance work, including painting and decorating, done under contract and paid for in whole or in part out of the funds of a public body.
Does the amount of the public works contract matter?
Yes. Prevailing wages must only be paid to workers when the public works contract for a municipality exceeds $15,444 and $2,000 for any other public contract, including boards of education and public utilities.
Does the contract between the public body and contractor need to reference prevailing wages?
Yes. Every public works project subject to a prevailing wage for workers must identify the specific prevailing wage rates and provide that workers will not be paid less than the prevailing wage identified in the contract. In addition, the contract must state that in the event a worker is paid less than the prevailing wage, the public body may terminate the contract and hold the contractor responsible for costs associated with the termination.
Who sets the prevailing wages?
The New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development sets the prevailing wages for each classification of laborer or craftsman by county. A list of prevailing wages may be found at http://lwd.dol.state.nj.us/labor/wagehour/wagerate/prevailing_wage_determinations.html.
What are the consequences of not paying prevailing wages?
An employer who violates the Act is guilty of a disorderly persons offense and subject to fines and possibly imprisonment. The Department of Labor may assess administrative penalties up to $2,500 for the first violation and $5,000 for subsequent violations. In addition, penalties include the difference between the wages paid to a worker and the appropriate prevailing wage. Any worker paid less than the prevailing wage may bring a civil claim against his or her employer and, if successful, collect wages, costs and attorney’s fees. Each day that an employer pays a worker less than the prevailing wage rate is a separate violation.
What is debarment?
If a contractor is debarred, it will not be able to bid on or perform work on a public contract for three years. When a contractor refuses to pay prevailing wages, the Commissioner of the Department of Labor has the discretion to debar a contractor. The following factors are considered: (1) record of previous violations; (2) previous cases of debarment; (3) frequency of violations from previous cases; (4) magnitude of the violations; (5) existence of outstanding audits; (6) failure to respond to requests for records; and (7) whether false or altered records have been submitted by the contractor. If the Commissioner seeks to debar a contractor, the contractor is entitled notice of the violation and a hearing upon request. It is recommended that you seek counsel to request a hearing and represent your interests in a debarment hearing.
What happens if the Department of Labor directs me to provide information about public projects my company has performed?
The Department of Labor is authorized to investigate wages an employer has paid to its employees on any project in New Jersey. Frequently, the Department of Labor will request voluminous documents from the contractor within ten days of the contractor’s receipt of the requests. If the information is not provided, a subpoena will be issued. Failure to respond may result in the public body withholding 25% of the amount to be paid to the contractor from the public body and supervision of payment to the contractor’s employees for ongoing projects. In the event that the contractor does not cooperate, it may be debarred.
If your company has violated the Prevailing Wage Act, it does not necessarily mean you will be debarred. Often, with the assistance of an experienced New Jersey prevailing wage attorney, a settlement can be negotiated with the Department of Labor, which may reduce the penalties and avoid the dreaded debarment. If your company has been sued on the Prevailing Wage Act or received an audit letter from the Department of Labor, contact Einhorn Harris partner, Timothy J. Ford, Esq.