We are all in a state of high anxiety over COVID-19, also known as the Coronavirus.  While we need to put personal and community health concerns first, nobody should have to lose his or her job as a result of this crisis.

But what are your New Jersey employment law rights as they relate to this pandemic?

Time off from Work

Today, in Wild v. Carriage Funeral Holdings, Inc., the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that employers cannot discriminate against employees for using prescribed medical marijuana while off-duty.  Rather, doing so constitutes disability discrimination in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”).

The New Jersey Supreme Court affirms a March 17, 2019 Appellate Division opinion.  The Supreme Court’s opinion makes it clear that the Compassionate Use Act does not require employers to accommodate the use of medical marijuana in the workplace.  It also noted that the Compassionate Use Act does not permit anyone to operate or control any “vehicle, aircraft, railroad train, stationary heavy equipment or vessel while under the influence of marijuana.”  But the Supreme Court’s opinion holds that the LAD prohibits employers from discriminating against employees for using prescribed medical marijuana outside of work.

For more information about the case, please see my previous article:  New Jersey Employers Can’t Discriminate for Medical Marijuana Use Outside of Work.

The New Jersey Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

Last month, New Jersey’s Appellate Division analyzed the New Jersey Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (“PWFA”).  The PWFA is an amendment to the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”) that prohibits pregnancy discrimination in the workplace.

Among other things, the PWFA requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to women who are pregnant.  For example, this can include providing bathroom breaks, rest breaks, assistance with manual labor, job restructuring, and temporary assignment to less strenuous or less hazardous work.  However, employers do not have to provide an accommodation if it would impose an undue hardship on it.

Rumored affair can be sexual harassment in New JerseyA recent opinion by New Jersey’s Appellate Division recognizes that false rumors of a sexual relationship between a female employee and a male superior can create a legally actionable hostile work environment.

Jennifer Schiavone is a senior corrections officer for the New Jersey Department of Corrections (“DOC”).  In 2013, the DOC assigned Officer Schiavone to work in the Central Control Unit (“Central Control”), which is a desirable job because it does not involve direct contact with inmates.

Shortly after the DOC transferred Officer Schiavone to Central Control, rumors began to spread that she was having an extra-marital affair with a high-level DOC official, “S.D.”  Even though Officer Schiavone denied that she was having an affair with S.D., their supposed relationship became the subject of nearly daily conversation at work.  For example, on one occasion Officer Julie Houseworth asked Officer Schiavone if she planned to “blow” S.D.  Another time, Lieutenant Zsuzsanna Rogoshewski said: “That’s her over there, that’s who’s sleeping with the [high-ranking official],” referring to Officer Schiavone and S.D.

The Third Circuit recently addressed when a bonus an employee receives from someone other than his or her employer counts toward the employee’s “regular hourly rate” of pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”).

When Must Payments from Third Parties be Counted Toward Overtime Pay?The FLSA is a federal law that, among other things, requires employers to pay most non-exempt employees time-and-a-half when they work more than 40 hours in a workweek.  As a result, the higher the employee’s regular hourly rate, the higher the overtime pay premium the employee is entitled to receive.

The case involves employees of Bristol Excavating Inc., an excavation contractor, who work at sites owned by another company, Talisman Energy Inc.  Since the employees work 12 ½ hour shifts every day for two straight weeks, followed by a week off, they routinely work substantial overtime hours.

On July 26, 2019, New Jersey’s Appellate Division issued a detailed ruling regarding the non-compete and non-solicitation provisions in ADP, LLC’s stock option plan.  In the process, the court provided a detailed explanation of how New Jersey courts should analyze restrictive covenants.

The appeal stems from separate cases ADP filed against six of its former sales representatives, Erik Kusins, Ryan Hopper, Anthony M. Karamitas, Nick LeNoble, Michael DeMarco and Daniel Hobaica.  They had mixed results at the trial court level.  Those cases were consolidated in a single appeal.

ADP has restrictive covenants with most of its sales force.  Specifically, most of its sales employees are required to sign agreements that include non-compete and non-solicitation provisions that prohibit them from soliciting any ADP clients who they had contact with at ADP, for 12 months after they stop working for ADP, in the geographical territory in which they worked for ADP.

Today, New Jersey passed new law impoving wage and hour law protectionsNew Jersey’s Acting Governor Sheila Oliver signed an amendment to New Jersey’s  wage and hour laws that makes several extremely important improvements.

The amendment impacts several New Jersey laws, most importantly the Wage & Hour Law (“WHL”) and the Wage Payment Act (“WPA”).  The WHL is a statute that requires employers to pay employees who do not fall within an exemption minimum wage (currently $10 per hour) and time-and-half when they work more than 40 hours in any particular workweek.  The WPA is a law that requires employers to pay employees on time, and typically at least twice per month.

The amendment includes numerous new provisions, all of which go into effect immediately.  We have summarized some of the most significant changes below:

US Supreme Court Allows Title VII Discrimination Lawsuit to ProceedEarlier this month, the United States Supreme Court ruled that filing a Charge of Discrimination is not required for a court to have jurisdiction over a lawsuit under Title VII of the Civil of Rights Act of 1964.

Title VII is a federal law that prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin.  It requires employees to file a Charge of Discrimination with the United States Equal Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), wait at least 180 days for the EEOC to investigate the claim, and then receive a “Right to Sue” letter before they can file a lawsuit.

Lois Davis worked for Fort Bend County, Texas.  She made an internal sexual harassment complaint to the County’s human resources department.  After Fort Bend subsequently reduced her job responsibilities, she filed a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC claiming she was the victim of retaliation for reporting the sexual harassment.

The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”) requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to disabled employees to permit them to be able to continue to perform their jobs.

Ordinarily, an employee who brings a discrimination case under the LAD has to prove the discrimination led to an adverse employment action such as being fired, demoted, or passed up for a promotion.  However, in a recent published opinion, Richter v. Oakland Board of Education, New Jersey’s Appellate Division ruled that an employee can recover damages for a physical injury caused by the employer’s failure to accommodate her disability without having to prove she suffered an adverse employment action.

Mary Richter is a science teacher for the Oakland Board of Education at Valley Middle School.  During the first marking period of the 2012/2013 school year, her lunch period was scheduled to begin at 1:05 p.m.  Ms. Richter has Type I diabetes and believed eating her lunch that late in the day would negatively impact her blood sugar levels.  Accordingly, she asked her school’s principal, Gregg Desiderio, to allow her to eat her lunch earlier in the day.

A recent decision by New Jersey’s Appellate Division recognizes that, under the doctrine of apparent authority, a company’s attorney can bind it to a settlement whether or not the employer actually authorized him to settle the case.

Employment Lawsuit Settles in CourtJesus Gonzalez filed an employment discrimination lawsuit against his former employer, Electronic Integration Services, LLC, also known as Panurgy OEM.  More specifically, he claimed Panurgy fired him in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”), the Family & Medical Leave Act (“FLMA”) and the New Jersey Family Leave Act (“NJFLA”).

Shortly before a trial, Panurgy’s lawyer conveyed an offer to settle the case for $175,000.  Mr. Gonzalez accepted the offer, and the judge placed the terms of the settlement on the record.