Wages and benefits under New Jersey’s labor laws aren’t just about protecting employees; those minimum guarantees also help ensure businesses can operate competitively.
The New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development (NJDOL) is cracking down on businesses that regularly break the law by underpaying their employees. Aside from harming workers, these businesses also have the unfair advantage of undercutting or fixing prices or running off the competition if they choose.
The department’s latest approach to tackling wage abuse focuses on strategic enforcement and is targeting industries with a history of non-compliance with existing laws and on those whose employees are less likely to file complaints, according to a NJDOL press release on Friday, Dec. 2.
The strategic enforcement effort is being led by the department’s Wage and Hour and Contract Compliance Division in cooperation with partner government agencies and will also harness the “influence of employers, workers, and industry and community stakeholders to help drive compliance,” according to the release.
“Strategic enforcement is a proactive and coordinated effort that aims to level the field so that businesses playing by the rules can successfully compete in a dynamic economy,” said Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo, shown above.
Industries being targeted first are commercial laundromats and multi-unit residential construction. Following months of research, these two industries were selected to make a lasting industrywide impact on compliance with state labor laws.
Commercial laundromats predominantly employ women immigrants, who are often fearful of reporting wage theft and other workplace violations. In residential construction, worker misclassification has become embedded in many companies’ business models, the NJDOL said.
The new approach to uncovering wage abuses augments the NJDOL’s existing complaint-driven enforcement actions.
“By changing the behavior of employers that fail to comply, wage violations can be prevented at the source. Unfair business practices that squeeze workers and create a race to the bottom among employers will be rooted out of the industry,” said Asaro-Angelo.
“Strategic enforcement works to create a better way forward — to build successful businesses, create good jobs for workers, and nourish strong communities for New Jersey residents,” he added.