Employment Law for New Jersey ContractorsOne of a contractor’s most valuable, and expensive, assets is its employees. Our employment lawyers provide service that is both sophisticated and personal to our small business clients to make sure that their employment practices keep their employees as an asset, not a burden. The firm’s employment attorneys have decades of experience in employment law. We are aggressive in fighting for the rights of small businesses. We represent New Jersey contractors and small businesses on all aspects of the employee/employer relationship.
Negotiating and Drafting Employment Contracts
A wise business wouldn’t think of renting property without a written lease; it would not enter into a major project without out a written contract. Yet typically most contractors spend significantly more each year on payroll than on rent or any other expense. For this reason it only makes sense that they should have written employment contracts with their employees.
Employment contracts can significantly protect employers. For instance, if the contract states wages and hours, then there cannot be a dispute about them later. Likewise, employment contracts can have non-competition agreements which prevent key or skilled workers from working for competitors if they quit or are fired. It can also prohibit them from opening up a competing business or stealing clients. If not written correctly, however, employment contracts have hidden pitfalls. It is therefore vital to have an experienced employment lawyer negotiate and draft employment contracts.
Our employment lawyers have extensive litigation experience. We first try to resolve disputes so the time and expense are unnecessary. We are very experienced in mediation and arbitration, for example. We defend businesses on a wide range of litigation claims, including these.
- Discrimination. We are experienced at protecting contractors and small businesses against claims of discrimination. New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination and Title VII of the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 protect employees from discrimination for a wide range of issues, from race to gender to age to sexual orientation; they both provide for punitive damages and payments of the employee’s attorneys fees if they win a law suit. However, New Jersey is an “at will” employment state, and the law does not prohibit taking action against employees because of their performance, or letting them go or cutting back their hours for economic reasons.
- Sexual, Racial or Religious Harassment. The law prohibits harassment for any reason for which it prohibits discrimination. We aggressively represent employers against claims of harassment.
- Wrongful Discharge. We defend contractors against claims by former employees that they have been wrongfully fired, whether it be because of discrimination, retaliation, or because they were protected by a contract. We make aggressive use of all available defenses to protect our clients.
- Wage and Hour Claims/Misclassification of Workers. We aggressively defend contractors whose employees claim they have been denied overtime or minimum wage, or claim that they were misclassified as independent contractors.
- Whistleblower claims. New Jersey’s Conscientious Employee Protection Act (known as “CEPA”) prohibits retaliation for complaints of legal violations. Employers also cannot retaliate because of filing workers compensation claims or asking for minimum wage or overtime. CEPA requires employers to pay their employees’ attorneys fees and punitive damages if the employee was in a CEPA law suit. However, employers can make employment decisions based on their legitimate business needs, and we have significant experience and have had considerable success defending them when they do.
- Enforcement of Restrictive Covenants. We represent contractors in negotiations and litigation against their former employees, and against competitors when they have violated confidentiality agreements, non-compete agreements or other contractual provisions which protect their business needs.
Wage and Hour Issues
One of the biggest issues for contractors is the pay of the people who work for them. Non-exempt employees who work for the business (generally all those except for management or high level management administrative support) are entitled to minimum wage and overtime. Failure to pay it opens the employer up to civil and administrative liability; in the construction industry it can also potentially lead to criminal liability. However, legitimate independent contractors do not need to be paid minimum wage or overtime, and their employer does not need to pay payroll taxes on their pay. However, the test to determine whether a worker is actually a “true” contractor is quite complex. It is the subject of many suits and governmental actions. We work with contractors to ensure that their workers are properly classified and paid, and defendant them aggressively against claims that they are not.
Contact our New Jersey employment attorneys to discuss your business’s employment law needs at (973) 890-0004 or e-mail us.