The New Jersey Assembly Budget Committee has approved legislation to enhance penalties and sanctions against employers who illegally withhold wages and benefits from employees.  The proposed legislation sets forth increased fines, penalties, and damages for wage and hour violations.  Additionally, the bill imposes criminal sanctions against employers who retaliate against employees for reporting and/or complaining of violations.

In addition to the existing damages for wage and hour violations (unpaid wages, liquidated damages, fees and costs), employers will now be fined $500.00 and penalized 20% of the unpaid wages for a first offense.  Any subsequent offenses will result in the same penalties/damages as well as an increased fine of $1,000.  Additionally, violations can also result in an employer’s loss of any license issued by the State of New Jersey.  Finally, retaliating against an employee for bringing a wage and hour claim will be considered a disorderly persons offense.

The bill is intended to deter wage and hour violations by implementing “tougher penalties” while providing employees with additional safeguards for reporting abuse.  The New Jersey General Assembly is expected to vote on the bill this week.