Stanfield, Peters’ bill aims to protect businesses from lawsuits among pandemic regulation changes

LUMBERTON - Assemblywoman Jean Stanfield and Assemblyman Ryan Peters introduced legislation that aims to protect employers who seek advice from the Department of Labor.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has led to the rapid adjustment of how business is conducted in the state. We need to make sure our business owners and employers are safe to seek guidance and are not being penalized after the fact for following that guidance,” Stanfield said.

“Our small business owners and workers are suffering a great deal right now. They can’t be expected to fully understand the constant changes in protocol coming from Trenton and Washington. It’s paramount they have trust in what their government is telling them during this,” she continued.

The bill from the 8th District legislators would allow employers to use a good-faith defense if the state fines them for violations of the “New Jersey State Wage and Hour Law.” A good-faith defense could be used if the employer followed a written ruling, approval or interpretation from an employee at the Department of Labor and Workforce Development or the Division of Wage and Hour Compliance who is serving in their official capacity for the department.

Current law only allows employers to claim good faith if they are given written advice from the Commissioner of the Department of Labor and Workforce or Director of the Division of Labor and Workforce Development.

“We need an all hands on deck right now. Employers can’t wait for written guidance from the commissioner himself. They need to trust the labor officials that are helping them,” Peters said.

“We are enormously grateful for how hard the Department of Labor is working to help the hundreds of thousands of New Jersey residents that need it right now. We have to be realistic at moments like this and relax regulations so more people can be helped as quickly as possible. Now is not the time to let perfect be the enemy of good,” he continued.

Earlier this year, the good-faith defense was thrust into the news after the trucking and dairy company Cream-O-Land’s defense was struck down in a lawsuit. Cream-O-Land relied on three interpretations from employees of the Division of Wage and Hour Compliance to support its good-faith defense.