As we previously reported on April 23 and April 27, 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic dominating the news, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam recently signed into law a slew of bills passed earlier this year by the General Assembly that transform Virginia’s employment laws. This is the third in a series of alerts discussing the groundbreaking new laws governing workplace discrimination, worker misclassification, wages, restrictive covenants, and employee whistleblowers. Parts 1 and 2 are here and here.

Significant expansion of Virginia’s wage payment law

 Governor Northam signed into law two somewhat conflicting bills (H.B. 123 and S.B. 838) amending Virginia’s wage payment statute (Va. Code § 40.1-29). Both bills create a private cause of action against an employer who fails to pay wages in accordance with the law’s requirements. S.B. 838 also establishes additional criminal and civil liabilities for contractors and subcontractors. Damages in both bills include wages due plus statutory interest, an additional equal amount as liquidated damages, and reasonable attorney’s fees and costs. For a knowing violation, an employee can recover an amount equal to triple the amount of wages due plus reasonable attorney’s fees and costs. The law broadly defines “knowingly” as where the employer (i) has actual knowledge of the information, (ii) acts in deliberate ignorance of the truth or falsity of the information, or (iii) acts in reckless disregard for the truth or falsity of the information. Proof of actual intent to defraud the employee is not required. The statute of limitations for a wage payment action is three (3) years. The Virginia Code Commission will codify the amendments, which take effect on July 1, 2020.
Continue Reading Virginia adopts a wave of new employment laws. Part 3 – Wage payment laws

Acting New Jersey Governor Sheila Oliver recently signed into law bill A-2903/S-1790, which includes sweeping changes to New Jersey civil and criminal provisions related to the payment of wages, including increased penalties and fines. A summary of the key provisions of this law is below.

First, the law amends the Wage Payment Law, Equal Pay Act, and the N.J. State Wage and Hour Law, such that if an employer owes unpaid wages or wages lost due to retaliation, the employee is allowed to recover not only the wages owed but also liquidated damages equal to 200 percent of the unpaid wages, plus reasonable costs and attorney’s fees. The law provides that an employer may avoid liquidated damages for its first violation if the employer establishes that its action was taken in good faith, with a reasonable basis to believe that its action was not a violation, and the employer admits the violation and pays the amount owed within 30 days.

Second, the law triples the applicable statute of limitations. Specifically, the law extends the limitations period for a wage recovery action from two to six years.

Continue Reading New Jersey increases wage protections and penalties for violations