Yearly changes in the law are inevitable, especially for businesses in New Jersey. While there are no new laws that take effect this year, it's important for employers to "take a look back" at those that took effect in 2015.
Minimum Wage. One important thing for businesses to know for 2016 is that the minimum wage stays the same. The New Jersey Department of Labor announced that it will not increase in 2016, after a raise to $8.38 last year. Some advocacy groups, like the New Jersey Policy Perspective, say that single adults living in this state need at least $13.78 an hour to meet basic needs. Others, such as the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, counter that this year gives businesses a "breather" after last year's increases.
Ban The Box. Another holdover from last year that doesn't change this year is The Opportunity to Compete Act (otherwise known as the Ban the Box law), which took effect on March 15, 2015. This law, which encompasses all New Jersey businesses with 15 or more employees over 20 calendar weeks, prevents employers from questioning employment applicants, through written or oral questions, about their potential prison record during the initial application process. The Act also prohibits employers from creating advertisements that warn applicants that those with a criminal history won't be considered for hire. Once the initial interview has been completed, the Act no longer applies, and employers may freely inquire about an applicant's prison records. The Act also doesn't apply to businesses where background checks are required by law, or to programs specifically created to offer job opportunities to those who have a prison record. On the other hand, the Act allows employers to inquire about a potential prison record if an applicant voluntarily discloses, orally or in writing, such a record.
Affordable Care Act. Other laws carrying over, without any change, include the Affordable Care Act (which requires employers of 100 full-time employees to provide "minimal essential" health care coverage).
On The Horizon. Upcoming changes includes mandatory paid sick leave and conferences to discuss "how to make New Jersey more small business friendly." Small business owners and startups may want to participate in public and private forums. As the New Year begins, New Jersey business owners should take care to review their employment practices (as they should every year), not only to comply with new laws, but to remain in good standing with the old ones. Loree Varella, Rutgers School of Law Newark candidate for a JD degree in May 2016 collaborated with me on this blog. She is Associate Editor of the Rutgers Computer and Technology Law Journal and Managing Research Editor of that publication.