In an important decision, a New Jersey federal district court has ruled that the statute of limitations for claims under the New Jersey Wage Payment Act is six years, not the two year period that specifically governs overtime and other wage claims specified in the New Jersey Wage-Hour Law. In Meyers v. Heffernan, (Civ. No. 12-2434) the Plaintiffs were commissioned sales representatives for a now-defunct Mortgage Lenders Network USA, Inc., a mortgage banking company until approximately February 2007. The plaintiffs sought unpaid commissions.
The defendants argued that the Wage Payment Law (WPL) contained a two year statute limitations period and, as the claims were three years old, they were untimely. The Supreme Court of New Jersey had not yet considered the limitations period applicable to claims arising under the WPL. USDJ Cooper looked to an earlier NJ Appellate Division decision for guidance. Troise v. Extel Commc’ns, Inc., 345 N.J. Super. 231 (N.J. App. Div. 2001).
In Troise, the Court considered whether a two or six year limitations period applied to an employee’s private cause of action for underpayment of prevailing wages. The Appellate Division observed that where the Legislature creates a statutory cause of action without including a limitations provision the court should apply the general limitations provisions which governs that category of claims
The plaintiffs herein were seeking to vindicate their economic rights through recovery of unpaid, accrued commissions. As the nature of these injuries were more analogous to a breach of contract claim rather than an injury to the person, the Court concluded that the WPL is subject to the six-years statute of limitations that is provided by NJSA 2A:14-1 for breach of contract claims.
This is exciting news, so to speak. At least it (definitively) clarifies the statute of limitations, unless and until the state Supreme Court rules differently. Which it likely would not.