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‘Meetings’ on Religion/Politics May Violate New Intimidation Law

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

Make sure your managers and supervisors know that politics and religion are individual choices and don't belong in the workplace. Otherwise, you could face stiff fines or penalties under New Jersey's new Worker Freedom from Intimidation Law.

The law, signed by Gov. Jon Corzine in July, prohibits employers from requiring their employees to attend meetings or participate in communications aimed at conveying "the employer's opinion about religious or political matters."

The law doesn't prevent you from holding meetings to discuss your opinions about labor unions. And you can still conduct meetings to discuss your views on religion or politics so long as they're voluntary for employees. But you can't discipline or fire employees for refusing to attend those voluntary meetings.

Employees have only 90 days to report violations, but the stakes are high. They can recover lost wages and benefits, attorneys' fees and punitive damages capped at three times the nonpunitive damages. Employers may face civil fines of $1,000 for the first offense and $5,000 for each subsequent violation.

Tip: Although the law mostly addresses "meetings," the definition isn't clear, and the law's scope is undefined. Conceivably, buttonholing an employee in private to discuss politics or religion could violate the law.  

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