As the State legislature continues to debate the merits and the provisions of a comparable state law governing paid sick leave, Morristown has moved forward.  Morristown now becomes the 13th municipality in New Jersey to adopt a paid sick leave ordinance that is applicable to all non-union, non-governmental employers operating within its city limits.

The Morristown ordinance is very similar to one that was earlier adopted by the City of Newark.  It provides that all employers who have employees working in Morristown for at least 80 hours in a given benefit year, except any governmental employees or members of a construction union covered by a collective bargaining agreement, are obligated to comply with  the ordinance that provides:

  • Employees accrue one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked.

Section 7 of the National Labor Relation Act protects employees’ right to communicate with one another regarding their terms and conditions of employment and to engage in unionization activities at the jobsite.  However, the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) historically held that employers may place reasonable restrictions on employees’ conduct and communications while on employer property and while on working time without violating Section 7 rights.  Consistent with those holdings, in 2007 the NLRB issued its ruling in, holding that employers could prohibit employees from using the employer’s email system to communicate with each other about union matters or other terms and conditions of employment, even if employees were permitted access to the email system for other purposes.

That all changed with the NLRB’s  recent ruling, reversing the decision. Effectively immediately, employees provided access to employer email systems for work activities may now be permitted to use these systems during non-work time for “statutorily protected communications” concerning unionization efforts, salaries and benefits and other terms and conditions of employment. Employers looking to restrict email access for such purposes must demonstrate that the measures are necessary to maintain production, discipline or other  “special circumstances” warranting restriction of these employee rights.  However, the NLRB cautioned that “because limitations on employee communication should be no more restrictive than necessary to protect the employer’s interests, we anticipate that it will be the rare case where special circumstances justify a total ban on nonwork email use by employees.”

In ruling in favor of employee access to email systems for Section 7 activities during non-work time, the NLRB pointed to a recent observation by the U.S. Supreme Court  that email has become a fundamental means of communication in the workplace and “some personal use of employer email systems is common and, most often, is accepted and tolerated by employers.” The NLRB concluded that employees’ Section 7 rights trump an employer’s property rights to its communications systems.

On August 11, 2014, Governor Christie signed into law “The Opportunity To Compete Act” (the “Act”)[1]. In adopting that law, the legislature specifically found that “removing obstacles to employment for people with criminal records provides economic and social opportunities to a large group of people living in New Jersey, increasing the productivity, health and safety of New Jersey communities.” The new law is applicable to employers within the State with fifteen or more employees over 20 calendar weeks, but excludes persons employed in domestic service in a person’s home.

Criminal Record Inquiries Prohibited During the Initial Employment Application Process:  The new law provides that an employer shall not place any advertisement soliciting applicants for employment that explicitly states the employer will not consider an applicant who has a criminal record unless a criminal background check is required by law or regulation, or a law or regulation would restrict an employer’s ability to engage in specified business activities based on the employees’ criminal records. The new law also provides that during the initial employment application process an employer (1) shall not require an applicant for employment to complete an employment application that make inquiries regarding the applicant’s criminal record and (2) shall not ask any questions regarding the applicant’s criminal record. The initial employment application process begins when the applicant first makes an inquiry about a prospective position and ends when the employer has conducted a first interview of the applicant.

Following the initial employment application process, an employer may require an applicant for employment to complete an employment application that makes inquiries about the applicant’s criminal record, and may ask questions regarding the applicant’s criminal record. An employer may refuse to hire an applicant for employment based upon the applicant’s criminal record, unless the applicant’s criminal record was expunged or erased by executive pardon. It should also be noted that if an applicant voluntarily discloses information about his/her criminal record during the initial employment application process, the employer may ask additional questions about the applicant’s criminal record during that process.

In September of 2012, Governor Christie signed a new law requiring every employer in New Jersey that employs 50 or more employees to post a notice that was prepared by the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development and that addresses gender equality in the payment of wages and other forms of compensation and benefits. The new law also requires every employer to whom the law applies to give a copy of that same written notice to every employee. The written notice must immediately be distributed to every employee (as the law is newly enacted) and hereafter must be distributed annually to every employee on or before December 31. Every new employee must also be given a copy of the written notice when hired, and when the employee specifically requests a copy of the written notice.

The annual distribution of the written notice can be accomplished by a paycheck insert, by a flyer distributed at an employee meeting, by email delivery, or through an internet or intranet website, if the website is for the exclusive use of the employees, can be accessed by all employees and the employer provides notice to the employees of the posting. It is important to note that the written notice to employees must be acknowledged by the employee; the acknowledgement must indicate that the employee has read the written notice and understands its terms. The employee acknowledgement can be a written document signed by each employee or an electronic acknowledgement returned to the employer within 30 days of each employee’s receipt of the written notice.

For you convenience we have attached the Written Notice that was prepared by the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development. The Written Notice is printed in both English and Spanish. If you employ more than 50 employees, the Written Notice should be posted together with the other postings required by law. If you employ more than 50 employees, the attached Written Notice should also be distributed to all employees as promptly as possible and every year into the future. As an employer subject to this new law, you must post and distribute the Written Notice prepared by the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development in both English and Spanish.

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