Compliance Watch:
What are my rights as an hourly employee in New Jersey?

April 11th 2024

It is important to understand that an hourly employee’s employment rights transcends beyond mere legal application; it is a vital component in one’s professional development, which provides the necessary confidence needed to navigate one’s career path.

The income you receive, as you clock in and out day with every passing day, profoundly defines your professional status in the workforce. Additionally, the intricacies of employment laws and policies differ across different U.S states. This may lead you to wonder about what your specific employment entitlements are in the state of New Jersey and how best can you secure them.

This article is tailored to address your queries as well as equip you with the necessary information needed to help secure your rights and improve your overall work life in accordance with your state’s workplace regulations.

This Article Covers

Defining an Hourly Employee in New Jersey
Wage and Hour Regulations in New Jersey
Rest Laws in New Jersey
Deductions, Benefits, and Protections in New Jersey
Termination of Employment in New Jersey

Defining an Hourly Employee in New Jersey

What is Hourly Employment in New Jersey?

New Jersey’s Statutes have defined hourly employees as those who are compensated for each hour they have worked.

Unlike salaried employees, who have scheduled working hours, hourly employees may have to work different hours each week, as they may have to work different shifts every other week. Hence, the income of hourly employees may fluctuate on alternate weeks, unlike that of salaried employees.

Therefore, employers of hourly workers must ensure their employees are paid correctly to avoid any violations of legal standards and any subsequent legal ramifications. Employers can establish compliance in this regard by keeping abreast with any latest updates in wage and hour laws as well as having a timesheet to keep an accurate record of their employees’ working hours.

What are the Key Differences Between Salaried and Hourly Employees in New Jersey?

Aspect Hourly Employees Salaried Employees
Compensation A particular rate is compensated for each hour worked. A set compensation amount on a weekly, biweekly or monthly basis. 
Overtime Pay Legal right to earn the state’s minimum hourly wage. May not likely earn the state’s minimum hourly wage if the employee is categorised as non-exempt.
Minimum wage Qualified to earn the state’s minimum hourly wage. May be ineligible to earn the state’s minimum hourly wage.
Employment benefits Less job benefits are likely to be received for an hourly employee Likely to receive more job benefits.
Rest and Meal Breaks No legal entitlement to mandatory rest and meal breaks. No legal entitlement to mandatory rest and meal breaks.
Compensation Stability Supply of income solely depends on the hours actually worked. A consistent income is supplied. 

To learn more about New Jersey labor laws, you can access our informative guides on understanding your rights as a salaried employee in New Jersey and discovering how to run payroll in New Jersey.

Wage and Hour Regulations in New Jersey

What are the Maximum Weekly Working Hours in New Jersey?

While both New Jersey laws and federal laws do not explicitly restrict the number of hours an employee is legally allowed to work in a given week, both laws have specified that hours worked exceeding 40 hours in a week are regarded as overtime hours. Both laws have also provided employees with the legal entitlement to receive compensation set at one and a half times their hourly rate for all hours that they have worked overtime. However, it is worth highlighting that there are particular employees in New Jersey that are exempt from receiving overtime compensation.

What is the Minimum Wage for Hourly Employees in New Jersey?

In New Jersey, wage and work hour requirements are governed by both federal and state legal provisions. The major federal law that regulates wage and hours is the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), while the relevant state law is the New Jersey State Wage and Hour Law.

Currently, New Jersey has set its hourly minimum wage rate at $15.13, which is greater than the federal hourly minimum wage rate of $7.25. New Jersey’s wage rate is tied to the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which raises the minimum wage rate annually in accordance with inflationary increases. In New Jersey, an hourly employee is expected to earn a weekly minimum pay of $565.20 for a 40 hour work week.

Do All Employees Earn the Minimum Wage in New Jersey?

While most employees in New Jersey are entitled to earn the state’s minimum wage, specific exemptions under both state and federal laws apply to employees working in certain occupations with particular salary levels. The list of exempt employees are as follows:

  • Employees below the age of 20: Federal law provides that employees below the age of 20 are qualified to earn an hourly training wage of $4.25 within the first 90 days of employment.
  • Full-time students: Part-time employees, who are university or college students, may earn no lower than 85% of the minimum hourly wage for up to 20 hours of work per week.
  • Tipped employees: Tipped employees earn a minimum hourly wage of $5.26, provided that the employee’s total wage (including the tips combined) add up to the state’s minimum hourly wage rate of $15.13.
  • Casual babysitters.
  • Outside salesmen.
  • Seamen.
  • Newspaper delivery employees.
  • Administrative, executive, or professional employees.
  • Certain computer professionals.
  • Employees working in particular seasonal and recreational establishments.

How Many Hours Qualify As Overtime and What is the Associated Pay in New Jersey?

According to both federal and state laws, overtime is defined as any additional hours worked beyond the 40 hour work week, by which the employee is entitled to be compensated at a rate of one and half times their regular hourly wage for any overtime hours worked. Hence, in New Jersey, the minimum overtime pay rate of an hourly employee is fixed at $22.70.

However, certain categories of employees in New Jersey are also categorized as ‘exempt’ from receiving overtime payment. These categories of employees, in addition to the employees that are exempt from receiving minimum wage, further include:

  1. Certain commissioned employees of retail or service establishments; auto, truck, trailer, farm implement, boat, or aircraft sales-workers; or parts-clerks and mechanics servicing autos, trucks, or farm implements, who are employed by non-manufacturing establishments primarily engaged in selling these items to ultimate purchasers;
  2. Employees of railroads and air carriers, taxi drivers, certain employees of motor carriers, seamen on American vessels, and local delivery employees paid on approved trip rate plans;
  3. Announcers, news editors, and chief engineers of particular non-metropolitan broadcasting stations;
  4. Domestic servants living in the employer’s residence;
  5. Motion picture theatre employees; and
  6. Farmers.

Rest Laws in New Jersey

What are the Offered Meal and Rest Breaks for Hourly Employees in New Jersey?

While it is customary for employers in New Jersey to grant meal and rest breaks for their employees, both state and federal regulations do not legally require employers to do so. Hence, meals and rest breaks are generally scheduled either at the employer’s discretion, as a matter of company policy or as required by the employment contract.

However, should employers choose to extend work and rest breaks to their employees, the federal regulations shall apply in this regard. The Federal law mandates employers to compensate short breaks that last 20 minutes or less, while meal breaks lasting longer than 20 minutes shall remain unpaid if the employee is completely relieved from job duties to eat.

However, an exception applies to employees below the age of 18. State law provisions, codified under the New Jersey Statutes Annotated, require employers to provide employed minors with a 30-minute meal break for every 5 hours of consecutive work.

Similarly, an exception also applies to employees who are nursing mothers. The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD) requires employers to provide unpaid breaks for lactating mothers to express milk in a private non-bathroom place that is free from public intrusion near their work area. While state law provides that breastfeeding breaks must be reasonable, the law remains silent on the length and frequency of this break. Hence, the timing and frequency of lactating breaks are typically decided by the employer where such breaks usually lasts 15 to 20 minutes long and are taken every three hours.

What Laws Govern Time Off and Leaves for Hourly Employees in New Jersey?

  1. Family and medical leave: The New Jersey Family Leave Act (NJFLA) mandates employers (with 30 or more workers) to provide employees with 12 weeks of unpaid leave for reasons relating to birth, adoption, or child foster care placement, as well as caring for a family member with a serious health condition. This leave can be utilized during any 24-month period only if employees have worked for a minimum of 1,000 hours in the last 12 months. In comparison, the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides a similar leave entitlement but only to employees who are employed by an employer with 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius and have worked for at least 12 months under the same employer for a minimum of 1,250 hours within that duration.
  2. Military leave: The New Jersey Code Section 4A:6-1.11 provides employees up to 3 months of unpaid leave for military service reasons whilst having their employment position remain secured.
  3. Emergency responder leave: The New Jersey Code Title 40A:14-214 provides emergency responders leave to employees who are volunteer emergency responders with no restrictions imposed on the amount of leave an employee may use. However, should leave span longer than a working day, state law mandates the incident commander to provide daily notice.
  4. Paid sick leave: Under NJ State Wage and Hour Laws and Regulations, Hourly employees as well as most employees (including seasonal and migrant workers) typically accrue 1 hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked and are able to earn up to a maximum of 40 hours of accrued paid sick leave annually.

Deductions, Benefits, and Protections in New Jersey

What are the Laws Regarding Pay Deductions for Hourly Employees in New Jersey

The New Jersey State Wage Payment Law (NJSWPL) governs the manner, timing, payment method of wage deductions and forbids employers from deducting wages for illegal reasons, such as damage or cash register discrepancies.

According to state law, the withholding of wages is only permitted if:

  • The employer is compelled to do so by both state or federal law (such as IRS holding).
  • The employer is ordered to do so by the court of law (such as payments directed towards child support).
  • The written authorization by the employee for the deduction and its intended purpose is lawful (such as retirement or health benefits).
  • The written authorization of the employee must meet certain requirements.

It is important for all employers to monitor every wage deduction made for every employee, so that employees are provided with an accurate statement of deductions with every paycheck reflecting where the deductions occurred.

What are the Provided Hourly Employees Entitlements Under New Jersey State Law?


  • Right to minimum wage: Under the state’s legal provisions, hourly employees are legally entitled to earn at least the state’s mandated minimum hourly wage requirement of $15.13.
  • Overtime: The New Jersey State Wage and Hour Law entitles New Jersey’s hourly employees to earn overtime payment that is fixed at a rate of one and a half times their regular hourly wage for working additional hours beyond the 40 hour work week.
  • Discrimination against tobacco and cannabis users: New Jersey’s laws prohibit employers from taking any adverse employment actions against their employees based on their usage of tobacco or cannabis-based products outside of work. Hence, employees are entitled with protective rights against discrimination in this regard.
  • Temporary Disability Insurance: Under New Jersey’s Temporary Disability Benefits Law, hourly employees enjoy the legal entitlement to temporary disability benefits, which provide up to 26 weeks of wage substitution if they have sustained nonwork-related injuries that hinders their regular work performance.
  • Unemployment insurance benefits: Hourly employees in New Jersey may be eligible to receive unemployment insurance benefits if they have lost their jobs without fault of their own. The rationale behind the implementation of unemployment insurance benefits to help supplement an employee’s income while they are unemployed and actively searching for other employment opportunities.

What are the Provided Hourly Employee Protections Under New Jersey State Law?

  1. Workplace safety: Both federal and state regulations seek to improve workplace conditions and protect the health and safety of both private and public sector employees in New Jersey. Private-sector employees are protected by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) law while public employees are governed by the New Jersey Public Employees Occupational Safety and Health (NJPEOSH) act. While OSHA focuses on training and educating employees about safety requirements and workplace hazards, NJPEOSH entitles employees to request for workplace inspections as well as anonymously report to employers or NJPEOSH authorities of any workplace hazards.
  2. Whistleblowing: The Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA) protects all New Jersey employees, who object to or refuse to engage in activities that involve any legal violations in the workplace (whistleblowing), from facing retaliatory actions from their employers such as dismissal, demotion, harassment and more.
  3. Background checking: New Jersey employees are protected under The Ban the Box law enforced by the New Jersey’s Opportunity to Compete Act. The Ban the Box measure prevents job applicants from having their criminal records enquired about  by employers with 15 or more employees in the premature stages of hiring. However, occupations in law enforcement, corrections, judiciary or emergency management are exempted from the application of this legal protective measure.
  4. Workplace discrimination: The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) protects all employees from employment discrimination and harassment based on their protected characteristics. A list of some of these protected characteristics are as follows:
    • Race (including hair texture, hair type, protective hairstyles and other traits historically associated with race);
    • Color;
    • National origin;
    • Age;
    • Ancestry;
    • Nationality;
    • Marital status;
    • Sex;
    • Pregnancy;
    • Gender;
    • Genetic information
  5. Child labor protection: The safety and wellbeing of employees below the age of 18 are protected in the scope of employment under New Jersey’s Child Labor Law. The law safeguards employed minors in many aspects of employment, including:
    • Restricting the number of hours they are allowed to work based on their age range.
    • Requiring employment certificates to be obtained before commencing their employment.
    • Restricting how late an employed minor can legally work in the night.

Workplace discrimination: The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) protects all employees from employment discrimination and harassment based on their protected characteristics. A list of some of these protected characteristics are as follows.

Termination of employment in New Jersey

What are the Termination Laws for Hourly Employees in New Jersey?

In the employment aspect of termination, most employees in New Jersey are ‘at-will’ employees. This means that an employee is free to quit their job at any time for any or no reason. Similarly, an employer is free to dismiss their employee at any time and for any reason that is not illegal. That being said, particular exceptions apply to employers that restrict their reasons for terminating their employees. However, specific exceptions apply which restrict an employer’s reasons for terminating their employees. These exceptions include:

  1. Employment contract: Employees cannot be terminated if the employer’s reasons for termination have violated the contractual terms and conditions.
  2. Participation in whistleblowing: Employees cannot be terminated for engaging in whistleblowing activities, such as reporting illegal or unsafe workplace practices by the employer, refusing to violate laws or public policies, or deciding to file for compensation benefits.
  3. Workplace discrimination: The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) forbids employers from terminating their employees based on their protected characteristics. Some of these protected characteristics include:
    • Race
    • Color
    • Sex
    • National origin
    • Religion
    • Age

Additionally, if an employer has suspended an employee or the employee voluntarily resigns from their employment, a final paycheck of all outstanding wages must be paid to the employee by the next scheduled regular payday following the termination of employment. Employers are given an additional ten days to pay all wages due if they have suspended an employee pertaining to a labor dispute involving employees who make up the payroll.

Should Severance Pay Be Provided to Hourly Employees in New Jersey?

The recent amendment to the New Jersey WARN Act, which became effective in 2023, obliges employers to grant employees one week of severance pay for every year of employment. This state law is applicable to mass layoffs of 50 or more workers. Furthermore, the law mandates employers to grant an employee an additional four weeks worth of pay if the employee is given less than 90 days of notice prior to the expected lay off.

Final Thoughts

In summary,  acquiring a deep comprehension of one’s employment rights is absolutely essential in the safeguarding of one’s legal entitlements in the workplace. This helps to prevent employees from being unfairly treated under law.

Due to the ever-dynamic quality of employment policies and regulations, remaining up to date with the latest updates can help you make well-informed decisions in your career trajectory and safeguard your employment rights.

Important Cautionary Note

This content is provided for informational purposes only. While we make every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information presented, we cannot guarantee that it is free of errors or omissions. Users are advised to independently verify any critical information and should not solely rely on the content provided.