Representing New Jersey Businesses In Employment Law Matters
For over 90 years, Cohn Lifland attorneys have earned a solid reputation for diligent and effective legal representation and cost-effective counsel for employers facing an increasingly complex web of employment laws. We pride ourselves on the professionalism and expertise we offer our business clients.
Businesses generally need counsel when negotiating independent contractor agreements and employment contracts; drafting confidentiality, non-competition and non-solicitation agreements; crafting employee handbooks and policies (including anti-harassment, affirmative action, vacation, medical leave and sexual harassment policies); resolving employment-related personnel disputes; terminating employees; and preparing or negotiating separation agreements (also called severance agreements). Additionally, businesses must be prepared to negotiate, and if necessary litigate, whistleblower claims; allegations of wrongful retaliation and termination; charges of sexual harassment and hostile work environment; claims for discrimination under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination based on race, sex, age, disability, religion and other protected categories; compensation issues such as unpaid overtime and minimum wage claims; and Family and Medical Leave Act and ERISA claims.
Cohn Lifland possesses decades of experience advising and handling all kinds of employment law matters on behalf of employers. Our employment lawyers help New Jersey businesses achieve their objectives in a cost-effective manner.
NEW JERSEY EQUAL PAY ACT
An important amendment to the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”) was enacted April 24, 2018, and goes into effect July 1, 2018. Called the “Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act” (“Equal Pay Act” or “Act”) this new law has important implications for employees and employers.
The Equal Pay Act requires equal pay for employees who are members of a protected class under the LAD. A “member of a protected class” means an employee who has one or more characteristics, including race, creed, color, national origin, nationality, ancestry, age, marital status, civil union status, domestic partnership status, affectional or sexual orientation, genetic information, pregnancy, sex, gender identity or expression, disability or atypical hereditary cellular or blood trait of any individual, or liability for service in the armed forces which are protected from discrimination under the LAD.
The Act makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against an employee because the employee is a member of a protected class by paying a rate of compensation, including benefits, which is less than the rate paid to employees not of the class for substantially similar work, when viewed as a composite of skill, effort and responsibility. The Act also prohibits an employer from reducing the rate of compensation of any employee in order to comply with the law.
Independent Contractor Agreements And Employment Contracts
How a business classifies a worker – as an independent contractor or an employee – has legal consequences that are often not anticipated by the employer. Misclassification can cost the employer dearly, including retroactive minimum wages and/or overtime, liquidated damages and the award of attorney’s fees for the worker’s lawyer. Such damages can be multiplied in collective or class actions involving multiple workers with similar job descriptions.
Cohn Lifland’s attorneys possess the legal experience to confidently guide businesses in this area of law. Additionally, such agreements often provide for alternative dispute resolution methods such as mediation and/or arbitration. Cohn Lifland provides valuable counsel in the formation and negotiation of independent contractor agreements and employment contracts, from standard sales positions to extremely complex executive-level employment contracts, based upon a thorough understanding of the needs of our clients.
Confidentiality, Non-Competition And Non-Solicitation Agreements
Businesses frequently utilize confidentiality, non-competition and non-solicitation agreements with employees in order to protect legitimate business interests. Such ‘restrictive covenants’ limit an employee’s or independent contractor’s ability to take a business’s confidential information or trade secrets, work for a competitor, form a competing business, or solicit the employer’s customers or employees. Cohn Lifland helps employers craft such agreements to ensure that they are enforceable against former employees and independent contractors.
Employee Handbooks And Policies
Businesses use employee handbooks (also called employee manuals or policy and procedures booklets) to inform employees of workplace policies. Doing so can reduce the risk of litigation, but only if the handbook is based upon a thorough understanding of the business’s needs, is clearly and carefully written and complies with federal and state law. Cohn Lifland has the experience and legal expertise to guide employers in drafting and implementing effective employee handbooks.
Employee termination is fraught with legal, economic, emotional and other issues. However, situations arise when employers have legitimate business reasons that make employee termination necessary. By seeking legal counsel before terminating an employee, and ensuring that such action complies with the law, businesses can minimize the risk and the resulting cost and distraction of litigation. Cohn Lifland is always ready to provide its clients thoughtful and experienced advice before a decision to terminate the employment relationship is carried out and guide the employer through the process.
Employee reductions and terminations are often necessary for economic reasons. Sometimes, the discharged worker may feel he or she is being discriminated against in violation of anti-discrimination laws, or retaliated in contravention of whistleblower protection laws and threaten to sue. To minimize the risk of litigation, separation agreements (also called severance agreements) are often offered by employers. Such agreements typically offer the employee money and/or benefits in exchange for a release of liability for all claims connected with the employment relationship.
Cohn Lifland is experienced at preparing clear and specific agreements that provide important protections for the employer, while complying with the law governing non-waivable claims, such as claims for unemployment compensation benefits, workers compensation benefits, claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FSLA), health insurance benefits under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), or claims with regard to vested benefits under a retirement plan governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).
Resolving Employment-Related Personnel Disputes
Despite best practices, employment-related litigation is a potential risk for all businesses. Daily employment decisions and necessary terminations can expose employers to potential whistleblower claims; allegations of wrongful retaliation and termination; charges of sexual harassment and hostile work environment; discrimination claims under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination based on race, sex, age, disability, religion and other protected categories; compensation issues such as unpaid overtime and minimum wage claims; and Family and Medical Leave Act and ERISA claims.
Cohn Lifland will provide the expertise and experience to get the best result through alternative dispute resolution methods such as mediation and/or arbitration. When litigation is unavoidable, Cohn Lifland’s litigators will diligently and cost-effectively advocate for our clients in state and federal court. Contact us online or call 201-845-9600 today. From our office in Saddle Brook, our lawyers help businesses throughout northern New Jersey.