I had the pleasure of touring the new Silvestri Tower at Jefferson Washington Township Hospital before it is open for patients on Monday July 26. The new 7 story patient pavilion features 90 all-private patient rooms, a rooftop helipad, and state-of-the-art communications systems to keep patients and their loved-ones informed of all medical care and treatments throughout the stay. An 850 space parking facility was also constructed, including electric vehicle charging stations. These additions will ensure Jefferson Washington Township Hospital is able to provide our South Jersey community with first-rate medical care for the foreseeable future.
Trenton – A bill package sponsored by Senator Fred Madden that would continue New Jersey’s efforts to combat employee misclassification was approved by the Senate.
“I am proud to continue our work in strengthening the protections for our dedicated workers against unscrupulous contractors here in New Jersey,” said Senator Madden (D-Camden/Gloucester), chair of the Senator Labor Committee. “Any employer who actively works to undercut the earnings of someone’s hard work for the sole purpose of increasing personal profits must be held accountable f0r their deception. This package of bills provides greater powers to facilitate this process, and aims to dissuade others from causing further untold social and economic costs for our middle-class families.”
The three-bill package builds on a six-bill legislative package to address worker misclassification that was signed into law in January 2020.
The first bill, S-3920, would provide the Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development (LWD) greater enforcement powers in regards to violations of state wage, benefit and tax laws. It would also provide additional enforcement options in the Office of Administrative Law and in the courts through subpoena powers and injunctive relief.
Under current law, originating in the 2020 misclassification package, the Commissioner of LWD is permitted to issue a stop-work order against any employer that violates any state wage, benefit, or tax law.
This bill would permit the Commissioner to issue a stop-work order for one or more worksites, or across all the employer’s worksites. The orders remain in effect until the Commissioner finds that the employer has come into compliance and has paid any penalties assessed.
The second bill, S-3921, would create the “Office of Strategic Enforcement and Compliance” within LWD. It would oversee and coordinate across the divisions of the department and, when necessary, between the department and other state agencies and entities, for strategic enforcement of state wage, benefit, and tax laws, as deemed appropriate by the Commissioner.
The bill would appropriate $1 million from the General Fund to the department to support and expand the Office of Strategic Enforcement and Compliance.
The third bill, S-3922, would streamline the identification of employee misclassification. Specifically, the bill would make misclassifying employees for the purpose of evading payment of insurance premiums a violation of the New Jersey Insurance Fraud Prevention Act. The Act is currently silent on misclassifying employees as a form of insurance fraud.
The bill would specify penalties for fraud when misclassification occurs as $5,000 for the first violation, $10,000 for the second violation and $15,000 for each subsequent violation.
The bills were released by the Senate with a vote of 26-9, 33-2 and 25-10, respectively.
MORIARTY BILL TO ELIMINATE STATE AID FOR POST-SECONDARY SCHOOLS REQUIRING STUDENTS TO ENTER ARBITRATION AGREEMENTS BECOMES LAW
(TRENTON) – Many for-profit institutions of higher education and job-training schools require students to consent to arbitration agreements that prohibit them from going to court to raise complaints about the institution. Students are often prevented from sharing information about their complaint, shielding the school from public accountability.
Aiming to dissuade institutions from compelling students to enter arbitration agreements, Governor Phil Murphy signed legislation into law to prohibit State grants, scholarships and loans from being used at post-secondary schools and job training providers that require students to enter arbitration agreements.
The new law (formerly bill A-4407) applies to schools that require students to resolve complaints related to the student’s enrollment through an internal dispute process; require students to waive their right to file a civil action, class action or complaint or notify government agencies of a violation of their rights; or prohibit students from disclosing the terms of student’s enrollment agreement or violating the agreement.
The sponsors of the new law, Assemblywoman Mila Jasey (D-Essex, Morris) and Assemblyman Paul Moriarty (D-Camden, Gloucester) released the following joint statement:
“Mandatory arbitration agreements prevent students from having their day in court. The arbitration process is typically as expensive and time-consuming for students as going through the legal system. Unlike judges, arbitrators often have incentive to favor the institutions. Without going through the courts, post-secondary schools are protected from being held publicly accountable, and students are unable to speak freely about their complaint. It also prevents future students from understanding the practices of the institution to which they will commit significant money and career prospects.
“State aid should never be used to support institutions which require students to trade their legal rights and consumer protections for their choice of school. These clauses are often unfair and not understood. Under this new law, this practice will now be prohibited in institutions which should be serving the student’s best interests.”
The measure previously passed the Assembly in March 65-4-1, and the Senate in January 28-1.
The child-care industry was among the hardest-hit industries by the COVID-19 pandemic, with many programs forced to temporarily close and then reopen with decreased enrollment and higher operating costs. To help struggling providers remain in business, the Governor signed a bill Thursday appropriating $100 million in funds in support of the child care industry.
The law (formerly bill A-5863/S-3990) appropriates $100 million to the Division of Disaster Recovery and Mitigation in the Department of Community Affairs. The Division will oversee the distribution of funds to three state agencies – the Economic Development Authority, the Department of Children and Families, and the Department of Human Services.
Each agency will use the funds to help revitalize the industry in different ways, such as studying the current child care landscape, providing technical assistance to child care providers, and/or awarding grants to child care providers.
Upon the legislation becoming law, Assembly sponsors Lisa Swain (D-Bergen, Passaic), Andrew Zwicker (D-Somerset, Mercer, Middlesex, Hunterdon), Vincent Mazzeo (D-Atlantic), Joann Downey (D-Monmouth), Roy Freiman (D-Somerset, Mercer, Middlesex, Hunterdon), Gabriela Mosquera (D-Camden, Gloucester), Shanique Speight (D-Essex) and Speaker Craig J. Coughlin (D-Middlesex) issued the following joint statement:
“As our state continues to come out of this crisis, one key component of our recovery that we cannot ignore is the restoration of child-care services. Many of the child-care programs that made it through the pandemic are now struggling to stay afloat. Without our support, they may be unable to expand services or continue to stay in business.
“Many parents – especially mothers – have been unable to re-enter the workforce because they lack access to affordable child care. New Jersey families will face financial difficulties and our economic recovery will falter if we cannot provide a sufficient network of high-quality, affordable licensed child-care providers throughout our state.
“New Jersey will be a model for the rest of the country in offering financial support to struggling providers. This will not only show our appreciation for the invaluable services they supplied during an unprecedented crisis, but will ensure our child-care providers can continue to offer these services going forward.”
Trenton – In response to the American Rescue Plan now covering 75% of a non-profit employer’s unemployment insurance payments due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Senate approved legislation sponsored by Senator Fred Madden and Senator Vin Gopal that would update coverage, initially written in response to the CARES Act, to cover the remaining 25% for nonprofit and government employers.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly affected non-profit organizations, drastically reducing staffing and shifting priorities,” said Senator Madden (D-Camden/Gloucester). “National surveys have reported that less than half of non-profits expect to meet or exceed their 2020 revenue goals. This bill provides crucial financial relief to non-profits at a time when their services are most needed, enabling them to continue their important work during this pandemic.”
The law under previous legislation, S-3011, currently exempts any non-profit employer that elects to make direct payments, in lieu of taxes, for unemployment insurance compensation paid to laid off employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. Under that law, written in response to the CARES Act, the non-profits have reduced liability covering 50% of the costs incurred by the employer, with federal relief from the CARES Act covering the remaining 50%. However, the American Rescue Plan now covers 75% of the liability costs, so, under the bill the law would be altered for the state to instead cover the remaining 25%.
Under the new provisions, this coverage would relieve these employers from their portion of Unemployment Insurance payments, minus any payroll taxes employees have already held in trust by the fund. Any employer who already made payments would be eligible for reimbursement.
The bill gained final legislative approval and is now on the Governor’s desk.
The Assembly unanimously passed a bill recently to help protect New Jersey children from harmful substances by prohibiting the sale of certain children’s products containing lead, mercury or cadmium.
Early exposure to these metals can be associated with developmental delays and other negative effects on a child’s organs, immune system, digestion, etc. To limit childhood exposure to lead, mercury and cadmium, the bill (A-1459) would prohibit the sale, manufacture or distribution of any product containing these substances that is solely or primarily designed to care for, come into contact with, or be used by a child under the age of six.
The measure stipulates that any children’s product discovered to contain these metals must be recalled and disposed of in a proper manner.
Upon the bill’s passage, Assembly sponsors Paul Moriarty (D-Camden, Gloucester), Gordon Johnson (D-Bergen) and Daniel Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex) issued the following joint statement:
“This bill is a commonsense measure that will protect our kids from the harmful effects of lead, mercury and cadmium. No child should be exposed to toxic substances in their toys or any other product intended for their use. By banning the sale of children’s products with these substances, we can safeguard the health and well-being of children throughout our state.”
The legislation now heads to the Senate.