An Overview of Basic Employee Rights
Employees in New Jersey have numerous rights under state and federal laws. Employees need to understand their rights and the protection they have under the various laws. The employment laws protect the rights of current employees, former employees, and applicants within the employer-employee relationship. Since employment relationships can be complex and give rise to many different situations, employment laws address many different diverse issues. Below, you will find an overview of your basic employee rights from the law firm of Swartz Swidler.
Basic Employee Rights
Most states protect employee privacy in the workplace. These types of privacy protections include protecting your privacy as it relates to your personal possessions, including a briefcase, purse, or storage locker that is only accessible by you. In New Jersey, employers are also prohibited from asking applicants or employees to disclose their login or password information to their social media accounts or to give employers access to these types of accounts in other ways. However, your privacy rights to your work emails and how you use the internet while using your employer’s computer system are limited.
Some other important rights you have as an employee include the following:
- Right to work in an environment in which you are not discriminated against or harassed based on your protected characteristics
- Right to work in a safe work environment without hazardous conditions
- Right not to be retaliated against for engaging in protected activities, including filing discrimination or safety complaints or reporting your employer for engaging in illegal activities
- Right to receive fair wages for all hours you work
Prospective employees are also protected under employment laws. Employers are prohibited from discriminating against applicants based on their protected characteristics during the recruitment, application, interview, and hiring phases. These protected characteristics include the following:
- Gender identity
- Sexual orientation
- Genetic information
- National origin
- Citizenship status
For example, employers cannot ask you questions about your family status during an interview. Employers also cannot conduct pre-employment background checks without giving written notice and securing permission from applications to complete them. As previously noted, employers in New Jersey cannot ask applicants to give them access to their social media accounts. Under the New Jersey Opportunity to Compete Act, employers also cannot ask applicants about their criminal records during the initial application phase but can ask later in the application and interviewing process.
Federal Laws Protecting Employee Rights
to protect the rights of employees in all states. However, when states have laws that provide greater protection, employers must follow those laws. For example, the Fair Labor Standards Act requires employers to pay a minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. However, the state minimum wage in New Jersey is $12 per hour, so non-exempt employees in New Jersey are entitled to be paid at least $12 per hour.
Some of the important federal employment laws that protect employee rights include the following:
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – Prohibits discrimination in the workplace and during the hiring process based on an employee’s or applicant’s protected characteristics for employers with at least 15 employees
Americans with Disabilities Act– Prohibits discrimination against applicants and employees based on their real or perceived disabilities and provides that employers must provide reasonable accommodations unless doing so would create undue financial hardship
Age Discrimination in Employment Act – Prohibits employers from discriminating against applicants and employees based on their age if they are 40 or older for employers with at least 20 employees
Fair Labor Standards Act- Establishes the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour and the overtime rules for non-exempt employees
Family and Medical Leave Act – Allows eligible employees who work for employers with at least 50 employees working within a 75-mile radius to take 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave each year to care for their serious medical conditions or those of their family members
National Labor Relations Act – Protects the rights of employees to organize, join unions, and engage in collective bargaining to improve their conditions of employment, wages, and benefits
Some New Jersey employment laws are broader than their federal counterparts and protect the rights of more employees. For example, the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination applies to all employers in the state with at least one employee and prohibits discrimination against applicants and employees based on their protected characteristics while Title VII only covers employers with 15 or more employees.
The NJLAD’s age discrimination prohibitions likewise apply to employees of all ages when they are ages 18 or older and are not restricted to discrimination based on age for older workers. The New Jersey Family Leave Act also covers employers with 50 or more employees. However, eligible employees only need to have worked a minimum of 1,000 hours in the previous 12 months while working for a covered employer. By contrast, the federal FMLA only applies to employees who have worked a minimum of 1,250 hours during the previous 12 months for a covered employer. An employment lawyer can help you understand your rights as an employee or applicant in New Jersey under both federal and state laws.
Speak to an Experienced Employment Law Attorney About Your Employee Rights
You have many rights as an applicant or employee in the context of the employer-employee relationship under both state and federal laws. If you think that your current or prospective employer might have violated your rights, you should speak to an experienced employment law attorney at Swartz Swidler. We can review your situation and help you understand your rights and legal options. Call us today for a free and confidential consultation at (856) 685-7420.