Three bills recently heard by the New Jersey Senate Labor Committee pose to shake up New Jersey employment law. These three bills, A492, A4278, and S2747, address matters involving employees’ intellectual property rights, reporting services for employer service violations, and employer disclosure of wage information. The Bills will either establish new law or significantly change the law currently in force. All employers should therefore be aware of the key aspects of the Bills and their potential implications should the Bills ultimately be enforced.
A492 – Protects employee rights to ownership and usage of employee inventions developed entirely on employee’s own time and without using employer’s resources.
Bill A492 was introduced to the Assembly Labor Committee on January 27, 2016. On December 20, 2017, the Bill was received by the Assembly for the second reading for concurrence with Senate Amendments. The Bill seeks to protect employees’ rights and outlines the circumstances in which an employer cannot seek rights to an employee’s invention. Primarily, an employer cannot create a contract whereby the employer is assigned the rights to an employee’s invention that is created on the employee’s own time and without the use of the employer’s resources whether that be equipment, supplies, facilities, and/or information. However, this will not apply in circumstances where: (1) the inventions are related to the employer’s business; and (2) the inventions are the product of any work performed by an employee on behalf of their employer.
In the event that an employee offers their employer an opportunity to acquire the rights to an invention developed outside of their employment contract, the employer will have a period of 9 months to either accept or reject this offer. If the employer rejects their employee’s offer, they will not be granted another opportunity to acquire the rights to the invention.
Assemblyman Craig Coughlin, one of the primary sponsors of the Bill, has noted that there are currently no measures in place that would prevent employers from assigning themselves rights to an invention developed by an employee that is unrelated to the employer’s business. As such, the Bill should be viewed as a welcome addition to the current employment law regime as it will work to protect employees from employer exploitation.
A4278 – Establishes service for reporting employer and employment service violations and requires posting of certain notifications.
Bill A4278 was introduced to the Assembly Labor Committee on October 20, 2016. On November 30, 2017, the Bill was Referred to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee for further consideration. The Bill is the result of a 2016 investigative series that shed light on unsafe working conditions and pay violations. New Jersey has a considerable number of temporary workers in warehouse jobs and the investigative series revealed that many of these workers received no overtime pay, no safety training, and faced racial and sexual harassment. To help combat these sweat-shop like conditions, the Bill aims to double down on surveillance of employers and employment services and introduces more stringent reporting requirements.
The Bill will lend to the creation of a toll-free telephone hotline and e-mail service where employers and employment services can be reported for violations of laws such as the State wage and hours laws, the New Jersey Prevailing Wage Act, and the Law Against Discrimination. Additionally, employers and employment services will be required to post notifications issued by the commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce in their workplace that outline workers’ rights in the State and the aforementioned reporting services. The employer or employment service is obligated to provide all workers with a written copy of this notification: (1) not later than 30 days after the form of the notification is issued by the commissioner; (2) at the time of the worker’s hiring or placement, if the worker is hired or placed after the issuance; (3) annually, on or before December 31 of each year, if the worker is an ongoing employee or placement of the employer or employment service; and (4) at any time, upon the first request of the worker. The notifications provided by the employer or employment service must contain an acknowledgment that the employee has read and understands the terms that is signed by the employee and returned to the employer or employment service within 30 days of its receipt.
Evidently, the Bill will help give employees an accessible means in which to report their grievances and make them more aware of their respective rights.
S2747 – Requires employers to disclose certain wage information to employees.
Bill S2747 was introduced in the Senate and Referred to the Senate Labor Committee on November 3, 2016. On December 20, 2017, the Bill was received in the Assembly without Reference for the Second Reading. The Bill instructs that all employers must provide each employee a statement of earnings that includes information relating to an employee’s wage calculation. The law as it stands only requires private employers to provide their employees with a statement of deductions made from the employees’ wages during the pay periods in which deductions are made.
Primarily, the Bill states that all employers, whether they be public or private, are to provide their employees with a statement of earnings that, in addition to any deductions, includes: (1) the employee’s gross earnings; (2) the employee’s net earnings; (3) the employee’s rate of pay; and (4) the number of hours worked by the employee during the pay period, if relevant to the employee’s wage calculation.
Thus, the Bill works to ensure that employees are aware if their wages are being correctly calculated and will protect employees from either unintentional or malicious wage calculation errors.