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LAW Home > Legal Topics > Jobs and Employment > Wages and Hours

Wage Rights for Workers: Minimum Wage Increase and Your Right to Overtime Pay



On January 1, 2018, New Jersey’s minimum wage increased to $8.60 an hour—up from $8.44 in 2017 and $8.38 in 2016. The increase in the state’s minimum wage is connected to the consumer price index, which is used to set the minimum wage each year.

Generally, workers should receive at least this minimum of $8.60 per hour for all hours worked, even if they work on a weekly salary, a day rate, a task rate, or piece rate. For example, if you are paid on a weekly salary rate, and your work hours for a weekly pay period are 65 hours, the weekly salary rate must be equal to (or more than) the minimum wage (65 hours x $8.60 = $559).

Overtime Pay

For work hours beyond 40 in a week, workers are entitled to overtime pay or “time and a half,” unless they are exempt from overtime—even if they are paid a weekly salary. Such exemptions can include executives, professionals, or outside salespeople. Exemptions from overtime should only be applied in a narrow manner, giving workers the best opportunity for fair wages. For example, if you do some management or outside sales work but have substantial other duties, the exemptions may not apply to you.

The failure to pay salaried workers overtime when it is required is a common wage violation. For example, if you are paid a salary of $700 per week and you work 55 hours in the week—unless you are exempt—you are owed additional wages. First, you calculate your hourly wage by dividing your hours for the week into the total wage. ($700 divided by 55 hours = $12.73 per hour). Then you calculate your overtime hours (55-40 = 15 overtime hours). You then calculate the “half time” of the hourly rate (in this example $12.73 divided by 2, which equals $6.37 per hour). You then multiply the number of overtime hours (15) by the half-time rate of $6.37 to get a total of $95.55 in unpaid wages for the one week. In wage claims, you can go back two to three years on minimum wage and overtime claims, so the amounts can add up over time. Under federal law, there is also a provision for extra damages equal to the unpaid wages for both minimum and overtime claims.

Even if there is not a definite record of the hours worked, workers can provide a reasonable estimate of the hours worked and payment can be based on that. Since it is the employer's duty to track hours, workers should not be penalized due to the lack of records.

Employers may also try to limit workers' access to minimum wage, overtime, unemployment, and workers compensation rights by misclassifying workers as independent contractors. Even if a worker has signed an agreement that states that the worker is an independent contractor, such agreements will not prevent you from challenging the classification. The law in New Jersey generally presumes that workers are employees. If you do not have your own business or are supervised by the company that pays you, you can be considered an employee, eligible for minimum wage, overtime, unemployment, and workers compensation.​