Wage and Hour Compliance FAQs (for Workers)
The following are general questions applying to most workers.
Q. May I file an anonymous complaint?
A. Yes. You may file an anonymous complaint if you so choose, but then neither you nor anyone else will receive any information about the complaint unless a resolution is reached with your employer and wages due are sent as part of the resolution. Neither you nor anyone else will be able to check on the status of an anonymous complaint.
You may file an anonymous complaint by mail.
Q. Will my employer be notified that I filed a complaint?
A. It depends. Staff in Wage and Hour Compliance will try not to reveal the complainant's identity to the employer; however, it may not be possible in some situations. In addition, once an investigation is closed, the employer has the right, under the Open Public Records Act (OPRA), to request all of the information on the complaint; however, we will endeavor to protect the identity of a complainant or witness to the maxim extent allowable by law.
Q. What can I do to speed up the complaint process?
A. Be sure to answer all questions as accurately as possible—whether you file online or by mail.
If you chose to file by mail, answer all questions on the complaint form. Incomplete forms will be returned to you for completion. Attach copies of any documentation that support your complaint. Please DO NOT send originals.
Q. Can a group of employees jointly file a complaint?
A. No. Only individuals may file a wage complaint. Each individual must file a separate complaint.
Q. If a case representing my complaint has already been filed in a court of law, may I file a wage complaint?
A. No. Wage and Hour Compliance will not be able to process your complaint if a case representing your complaint has already been filed in a court of law.
Q. Is there a statute of limitations on filing a wage complaint?
A. Yes. There is a six (6) year statute of limitations on complaints for unpaid minimum wage, overtime and all other complaints.
Q. What do I do if my employer did not pay me all the money I am owed?
A. You can file a wage complaint for monies due. You may file a wage complaint online or by mail.
If you choose to file your wage complaint by mail or fax, send your completed form to:
Division of Wage and Hour Compliance
PO Box 389
Trenton, NJ 08625-0389
F: (609) 695-1174
Q. If I am a bona fide independent contractor, may I file a wage complaint?
A. Independent contractors are not covered by the Division of Wage and Hour Compliance. If you are a bona fide independent contractor, you must bring your complaint to the small claims court in the county where the employer resides or conducts business. If you are unsure whether you are considered an independent contractor, it is advisable for you to file a complaint with the Division so that a determination can be made as to whether the Division can assist you in pursuing your complaint.
Q. What should I do if my employer has filed for bankruptcy?
A. You need to contact the United States Bankruptcy Court and file a Proof of Claim.
Out of State Employer
Q. May I file a complaint if my employer is located out of state?
A. Yes, you may file a complaint. If the employer has a New Jersey location or agent, then the case will be handled through the normal processes. If the employer does not have a New Jersey location or an agent, the Division will informally attempt to resolve the complaint. However, the Division does not have jurisdiction over employers in other states, so, if the employer refuses to cooperate, the Division cannot take any further action.
Q. What happens after I file a complaint?
A. Within 10 days of receiving your complaint, Wage and Hour Compliance will mail you an acknowledgement letter listing your complaint number. (Please be ready to provide your claim number whenever you contact Wage and Hour about your complaint.)
We will review your complaint to verify that Wage and Hour Compliance has jurisdiction. If your complaint does not fall within our jurisdiction, we will return your claim to you, with an explanation.
Depending on the nature of the complaint, your complaint will be assigned to a field investigator, handled by mail, or scheduled for a Wage Collection proceeding.
- Assigned to a field investigator: if your complaint is assigned to a field investigator, the field investigator will contact you for additional information. After the investigator has all the information, he/she will make an in-person visit to the employer.
- Handled by mail: if your complaint involves only you (e.g. you did not receive your last paycheck), your complaint will be handled by mail. The employer will be contacted by mail and given the opportunity to either pay the wages due or explain why the wages are not due.
- Scheduled for a Wage Collection proceeding: if your complaint involves any kind of benefit that arises from an employment contract (e.g. vacation, holiday, expense reimbursement, commission, severance, or bonus pay), you will be scheduled for a Wage Collection proceeding.
It will be necessary for you to participate in the proceeding, present evidence in support of your complaint, and waive any amount of your complaint in excess of $50,000. If you do not wish to waive the excess, you may wish to file a civil suit in a court of competent jurisdiction.
Wage Collection proceedings are conducted either in-person, virtually, or by telephone. The type of proceeding scheduled is determined by the Wage Collection section. Most in-person proceedings are held in Trenton; however, other locations are available upon request.
Q. Will I be notified of the results of the investigation?
A. Yes. After we complete the investigation, you will be notified of the results. If the decision is favorable to you and your employer owes you money, we will notify your employer. The employer may issue the payment directly to you or send payment to us, which we will forward to you.
There is no way to determine in advance how long it will take to complete the investigation into your complaint. If you are concerned about the status of your case, please call the Division at (609) 292-2305 and provide your claim or case number (from your acknowledgement letter) and the claims agent will advise you as to the status. Usually, when there is a field investigation, you will be contacted by the field investigator who will provide you with his or her telephone number so that you can make future contact about the status of your complaint.
Q. What happens if the results of the investigation are not in my favor?
A. If the decision is unfavorable to you, we will notify you by mail, and you will have the option of pursuing your complaint through a Wage Collection proceeding. If you chose this option, you must notify Wage and Hour Compliance in writing and we will then schedule you for a proceeding.
It will be necessary for you to attend the proceeding, present evidence in support of your complaint, and waive any amount of your complaint in excess of $50,000. If you do not wish to waive the excess, you may wish to file a civil suit in a court of competent jurisdiction. Most hearings are held in Trenton; however, other locations are available upon request.
Q. If the investigation reveals that there are undocumented workers, what will happen?
A. The Division of Wage and Hour Compliance does not investigate or inquire into the legal status of any worker. The Division applies New Jersey's labor laws without regard to a worker's legal status. The Division does not share information with "Immigration.”
Q. How much is the minimum wage in New Jersey?
A.Effective January 1, 2021, the New Jersey minimum wage is $12.00 per hour for most workers. Please refer to New Jersey's Minimum Wage Chart for scheduled increases.
Q. Do all workers have to be paid the minimum wage?
A. Most employees have minimum wage protection under the law. There are exceptions, such as automobile salespersons, outside salespersons, and minors under the age of 18, except for minors working in retail, food service, the first processing of farm products, beauty culture occupations, laundry, cleaning and dyeing occupations, light manufacturing and apparel occupations, and hotel and motel occupations.
Q. If I am a tipped employee, is my employer required to pay the minimum wage rate?
A. Your total earnings (hourly wage plus tips) must equal at least the minimum wage per hour. The hourly rate is up to your employer; however, effective January 1, 2021, the suggested rate is a minimum of $4.13 per hour. If the hourly rate plus tips does not equal at least the minimum wage per hour, the employer is required to make up the difference. Please refer to New Jersey's Minimum Wage Chart for scheduled increases.
Q. Is the employer allowed to reduce my rate of pay?
A. Yes. The employer can reduce your rate of pay as long as you are given advance notice of the reduction. The reduction cannot be made retroactively for any time worked. Also, the reduction cannot bring the rate of pay below minimum wage.
Q. When is overtime pay due?
A. Overtime is paid at the rate of time and one half after forty hours of actual work in a seven-day workweek, with the exception of certain salaried employees who meet the definition of an executive, administrative or professional.
Q. Does my employer have to pay me overtime or double time for working on a holiday, Saturday, or Sunday?
A. No. Overtime must be paid at a rate of time and one-half times the employee's regular rate of pay for each hour actually worked in excess of 40 hours in the workweek.
Q. If I work 40 hours and get 8 hours of holiday pay for a total of 48 hours of pay for the week, does my employer have to pay overtime for the hours over 40?
A. No, unless the employee physically worked over 40 hours in the workweek. Overtime must be paid at a rate of time and one-half times the employee's regular rate of pay for each hour actually worked in excess of 40 hours in the workweek.
Q. If an employee wants to work overtime (in excess of 40 hours in the workweek) and will accept straight time, can the employee waive his/her right to overtime pay?
A. No, the employee and the employer cannot mutually agree to violate the law.
Q. How does an employer compute the overtime rate for a worker who has two or more job titles with different hourly rates?
A. The overtime rate is calculated by using the weighted averaged method. The total gross wage is divided by the total number of hours worked to obtain the actual hourly wage rate. The actual hourly wage rate is then divided in half to determine the additional premium (half-time) rate due the employee.
An employee does clerical work for $17.00 per hour and is also a hostess for $15.00 per hour. The employee works 30 hours at $17.00 per hour and 16 hours at $15.00 per hour for a total of 46 hours during the week. The overtime rate due the employee is calculated as follows:
30 hours x $17.00 per hour = $510.00
16 hours x $15.00 per hour = $240.00
Total compensation = $750.00
The total compensation ($750.00) is divided by the total hours (46) to obtain the actual hourly wage rate. The actual hourly wage rate is $16.30 per hour.
The employee is still due the additional premium rate (half-time) for the 6 overtime hours. The average hourly rate ($16.30) is divided in half. The half-time rate is $8.15.
6 overtime hours x $8.15 = $48.91
The $48.91 (premium rate) is added to the original gross amount of $750.00. The new gross amount is $798.91. This is the amount that must be paid to the employee for the week.
Q. Can my employer require me to work overtime?
A. Yes. An employer can require an employee to work overtime provided the employer pays the appropriate wages and does not violate any existing employer-employee collective bargaining agreement.
Q. Can my employer require me to work overtime if I am a health care worker?
A. There are special regulations involving health care workers and mandatory overtime. View the Frequently Asked Questions for Healthcare Workers for more information.
Q. Is my employer supposed to give me a statement of deductions?
A. Yes. Each time you are paid you must receive a statement of deductions listing the gross and net wages and all individually itemized deductions (such as taxes) from your wages. The statement can be provided electronically or in hard copy.
Q. Are employers allowed to deduct for shortages or breakage?
A. No. Nothing can be deducted from an employee's wages other than those items required and/or specifically permitted by federal law and/or state law.
Q. Can an employer deduct money from my paycheck if I damage company equipment?
A. No. The Law does not permit deductions for damages to company equipment.
Q. Can an employer deduct money from my last paycheck if I don't return company property such as an ID tag, cell phone, tools, etc.?
A. No. The Law does not permit deductions for failure to return company property of any kind.
Q. Can an employer make a deduction from my paycheck or require me to pay for drug or other pre-employment testing?
A. No, unless you are applying for a security guard position. It is illegal for employers or prospective employers to make such a deduction from the wages of any employee or require that employee to pay any sum for drug or any other pre-employment testing. However, the 2004 Security Officer Registration Act (N.J.S.A. 45:19A-1 et seq.) states that applicants for security guard positions are responsible for the payment of any registration costs with the State Police, which includes drug testing, fingerprinting, criminal background checks, etc.
Q. Can an employer make a deduction for uniforms or uniform maintenance?
A. No. The Law states: "no deduction from the pay of employees for uniforms shall be permitted. If the employee pays for uniforms in cash and the cash payment brings the employee below the minimum wage, the employer shall make up the difference for the minimum wage for that week." In addition, an employer may not require an employee to purchase a uniform that contains a company logo or cannot be worn as street wear. However, Section 34:11-4.4b(6) of the Wage Payment Law, NJSA 34:11-4.1 et seq., allows deductions including those for: "payments authorized by employees or their collective bargaining agents for the rental of work clothing or uniforms or for the laundering or dry cleaning of work clothing or uniforms; provided the deductions for such payments are authorized by the employer."
Q. Can an employer make a deduction from my paycheck or require me to pay for a license, certificate, or certification that is required in order for me to perform the job?
A. No. The Wage Payment Law states that an employer cannot make a payroll deduction for a license, certificate, or certification that is required in order for an employee to be permitted to perform the job. However, if the license, certificate, or certification is the property of the employee, not exclusive to one employer, and is required to perform the job, the employee can be required to pay for it, although not by means of a payroll deduction.
Q. How often must an employee be paid?
A. Most employers are required to pay wages at least twice during each calendar month, on regular paydays designated in advance by the employer. However, for certain executive, supervisory, or other special classes of workers, payment can be made once a month as long as there is a regularly established schedule.
Q. Can I have my paycheck directly deposited into a bank account?
A. Yes. Your paycheck can be directly deposited if your employer provides this option. You must personally be in agreement with this action, although not all of the workers have to agree to direct deposit. Your employer must make arrangements with a financial institution. However, the option of direct deposit may not result in the employee incurring any additional fees as the immediate result of using direct deposit.
Q. Can an employer pay wages with a payroll debit card?
A. Yes. An employer can deposit an employee’s wages in a payroll debit card account if the following conditions are met (refer to N.J.A.C. 12:55-2.4 for the complete list of conditions):
- The employer must explain to the employee how the payroll debit card may be used at least one time per pay period to withdraw wages in full, without any fee and without difficulty.
- The employer must disclose the features of the payroll debit card (for example, withdrawal at any ATM or point-of-sale use), including any fee(s), which may be charged to the employee.
- The employee must consent in writing to being paid with a payroll debit card.
- The employer cannot intimidate or threaten an employee with discharge for refusal to accept a payroll debit card.
- The employer cannot make a payroll debit card a condition of hire or continued employment.
- The employer must furnish the employee with a statement of deductions for each pay period.
Q. Are employers required to pay fringe benefits such as vacation, severance, holiday pay, etc.?
A. No. Fringe benefits like vacation, severance, holiday or any other type of benefit pay are not required by New Jersey State law. If the employer chooses to provide these benefits, they must be administered uniformly in accordance with the established policy or employment agreement. An individual may have a basis for a claim if the employer fails to adhere to the policy or agreement.
However, under New Jersey's Earned Sick Leave, most employees have a right to accrue sick leave at the rate of 1 hour for every 30 hours worked, up to a maximum of 40 hours of leave per benefit year. The law takes effect on October 29, 2018
Q. Are employers required to provide health insurance coverage?
A. Please be advised that there is no New Jersey law concerning the requirement for health insurance coverage. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, administered by the federal government, may require employers to offer health insurance coverage. Information on the Act may be found at www.healthcare.gov.
Q. If I am hired with medical benefits, is my employer allowed to stop this benefit?
A. Yes. An employer may discontinue medical benefits; however, the employer is required to give notice if the medical benefits are being discontinued or the medical benefits are changing. If the medical benefits are being discontinued, the employer must provide 30 days advance notice in writing. If the medical benefit plan is changing, the employer must notify the employees in writing immediately as soon as the employer is notified by the health insurer.
Q. If I have medical benefits and my employment ends, do the benefits continue?
A. Benefits may or may not end immediately, depending upon the employer's policy and the health insurer. It is not a violation of the law for benefit coverage to cease immediately. However, you may be eligible for COBRA benefits, which are not regulated or under the jurisdiction of the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development. For information on COBRA, visit the United States Department of Labor's website at: https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ebsa/workers-and-families/changing-jobs-and-job-loss.
Q. Are employers required to pay sick leave benefits?
A. Yes. Under New Jersey's Earned Sick Leave, most employees have a right to accrue sick leave at the rate of 1 hour for every 30 hours worked, up to 40 hours of leave per benefit year. The law took effect on October 29, 2018.
Q. Am I eligible for Family and Medical Leave?
A.Temporary Disability and Family Leave Insurance provides cash benefits when you have to stop working to:
- Care for your own or a loved one’s physical or mental health (including COVID-19)
- Care for yourself due to pregnancy and childbirth recovery
- Bond with a new child
- Cope with domestic or sexual violence.
Most NJ workers are covered and your job may be protected under federal and/or state law.
Q. Can I file a complaint with the New Jersey Division of Wage and Hour Compliance because my employer does not allow me to take Paid Family and Medical Leave that I am eligible for
A. The NJ Division of Wage and Hour Compliance does not have jurisdiction over complaints involving Family and Medical Leave job protection. Learn more at myleavebenefits.nj.gov/jobprotection.
Being misclassified by an employer means that you are not receiving the protection and benefits that you deserve and are legally entitled to as an employee, including the right to receive temporary disability and family leave benefits and take job-protected family leave. The Division does investigate misclassification. Learn more about misclassification here.
Q. Does the employer have the right to change an employee's hours of work?
A. The scheduling of an employee's hours and/or days of work are up to the discretion of the employer; however, it is important to note if an employee's hours of work are diminished they may be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. For more information on Unemployment Insurance benefits, visit their website at: https://www.myunemployment.nj.gov/.
Q. Are breaks and lunches required by law?
A. The mandatory break law only applies to minors under the age of 18, and they must be given a thirty (30) minute meal period after five (5) consecutive hours of work. Company policy dictates break and lunch periods for anyone over the age of 18.
Q. Is an employer required to pay for jury duty or allow time off for jury duty?
A. New Jersey law requires that employers allow their employees time off to attend court for jury duty; however, there is no requirement for the employer to compensate the employee for the time.
Q. Are employers required to pay employees when they are unable to work due to a declared state of emergency?
A. No. New Jersey State law does not require employers to pay employees for time not actually worked. (Exception: Salaried employees who are exempt from overtime.)
Employees who were unable to work due to a weather-related emergency or other disaster may be eligible for unemployment benefits. The fastest way to file for unemployment insurance benefits is at https://www.myunemployment.nj.gov/.
People may also file an unemployment claim by telephone by contacting the state Department of Labor's Re-employment Call Centers at:
- North Jersey: (201) 601-4100
- Central Jersey: (732) 761-2020
- South Jersey: (856) 507-2340
- Out of State: (888) 795-6672
If a federal disaster is declared or for more information on FEMA services, please call the FEMA emergency number at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY) for the hearing and speech impaired. Information is also available via the internet at www.disasterassistance.gov and www.fema.gov.
Q. If I am a salaried employee who is exempt from overtime, is my employer required to pay me for days the business was closed due to a weather-related emergency or disaster?
A. Yes. If the employer closes operations due to a weather-related emergency or other disaster for less than a full workweek, then the employer must pay an exempt employee "the full salary for any week in which the employee performs any work without regard to the number of days or hours worked," because "deductions may not be made for time when work is not available."
Q. Can my employer force me to take a vacation day(s) for the day(s) the business was closed due to a weather-related emergency?
A. Yes. If an employer chooses to provide benefits, it is up to the employer on how they will be administered. However, benefits must be administered uniformly in accordance with the established policy, employment agreement, or union contract. An individual may have a basis for a wage complaint if the employer fails to adhere to the policy, agreement, or contract.
Q. I am an employer who had to close my business for several days due to a weather-related emergency or other disaster. I cannot afford to pay my employees during the time I am closed. However, I now want to give my hourly employees extra hours (over 40) to make up the time. Will I have to pay overtime?
A. Yes. You must pay overtime after 40 hours of actual work in a 7-day workweek, with the exception of certain salaried employees who meet the definition of an executive, administrative, or professional.
Q. At what age does a minor need an employment certificate?
A. An employment certificate (also referred to as "working papers") is required for all minors under the age of 18.
Q. What is the procedure for obtaining working paper?
A. After receiving a promise of employment from an employer, the minor may obtain a blank A300 employment certification form online or from the issuing officer of the local school district where the minor resides. If the minor is not a New Jersey resident, the form can be obtained from the district in which the minor has obtained a promise of employment. For more information, click here.
Q. Does a minor need a new employment certificate every time there is a job change?
A. Yes, an employment certificate is only valid for the employment stated on the certificate.
Q. What kind of work can a minor perform?
A. The type of work and hours of work vary depending upon the age of the minor. For more information click here.
Q. Can the employer require me to take a pre-employment lie detector test?
A. No, except in the following circumstances:
- The employer is authorized to manufacture, distribute, or dispense controlled dangerous substances
- The employee or prospective employee is or will be directly involved in the manufacture, or dispensing of, or has or will have access to, legally distributed controlled dangerous substances
- The test, which shall cover a period of time no greater than 5 years preceding the test, shall be limited to the work of the employee or prospective employee and the individual's improper handling, use, or illegal sale of legally distributed controlled dangerous substances
Q. Can I be required to pay for the lie detector test?
Q. Can an employer require me to take other types of pre-employment testing, such as drug testing, medical examinations, vision exams, etc.?
A. Yes, but unless you are applying for a security guard position, the employer or prospective employer cannot deduct the cost for this from the employee's pay or require the employee or prospective employee to pay for the cost of such drug testing, medical examinations, visual exams, etc. The 2004 Security Officer Registration Act (N.J.S.A. 45:19A-1 et seq.) states that applicants for security guard positions are responsible for the payment of any registration costs with the State Police, which includes drug testing, fingerprinting, criminal background checks, etc.
Q. If I was unfairly terminated, can Wage and Hour help me?
A. Wage and Hour Compliance has jurisdiction in termination cases only when the termination results from a wage complaint. If you believe your employment was terminated because you complained about your wages, be sure to include this information when you file your wage complaint.
If you believe your employment was terminated for reasons that constitute discrimination, call the Division on Civil Rights at (609) 292-4605 or visit their website at www.nj.gov/oag/dcr.
If your employment was terminated for any other reason, staff in Wage and Hour Compliance cannot assist you. New Jersey is an "employment-at-will" state, meaning that either an employer or employee may end employment at any time, without reason or notice. You may wish to contact an attorney for legal advice.
Q. Does my employer have to give me notice when he/she fires me? Do I have to give notice when I quit?
A. No. Notice is not required by either party based on the fact that New Jersey is an "employment at will" state, meaning that an employer or employee may terminate the relationship at any time, without a reason, without cause.
Q. When does an employer have to pay final wages to a terminated employee?
A. The employer may wait until the next regular payday designated for the pay period regardless of whether the employee quit or was fired.