Good news for New Jersey employers: When the New Jersey Department of Labor reviews an employee's unpaid-overtime claim and orders back pay, the employee can't file a separate lawsuit in federal court asking for more money and attorneys' fees to boot. Labor's decision is final; case closed.
Recent case: John Wright worked as an over-the-road truck driver for years. When his company changed the way it calculated wages, he suspected something was wrong and complained to the state Labor Department. Upon investigation, Labor concluded the company owed Wright about $4,000, which his employer paid.
That wasn't good enough for Wright. His attorney noticed a provision in the New Jerseythat said employees can sue for back wages plus reasonable attorneys' fees. Perhaps smelling a large fee, Write and his attorney sued.
The court dismissed the case, concluding they should have brought any beef about attorneys' fees to Labor's attention. And, if they didn't like the agency's decision, Wright and his attorney should have appealed. They don't get a second shot at more money. (Wright v. Nesor Alloy Corporation, No. 03-CV-1789, DC NJ, 2006)
Online resources: Even though New Jersey employers can be hit twice for wage-and-hour disputes, it's best not to be hit at all. To check on state labor laws, go to the Labor Department's site at www.state.nj.us/labor.