The Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, determined that an employee who brings a claim for violation of the New Jersey Wage Payment Law, based on an employer’s failure to pay, cannot recover more than those wages to which he or she is properly entitled.
In Palmer v. Shore Culinary LLC, the plaintiff, Vicki Palmer, worked as the Marketing Director and Banquet Manager at The Mill, a restaurant and banquet facility in Spring Lake Heights. Once The Mill came under new ownership, Palmer became increasingly frustrated with the new marketing and sales goals and the more competitive economic nature of the company. The Mill terminated Palmer’s employment because of she was uncooperative and divisive and had a poor attitude.
Palmer filed a lawsuit against The Mill, alleging, among other things, that The Mill violated the Wage Payment Law by failing to pay commissions that she was due. She claimed that The Mill’s failure to pay her commissions entitled her to damages in addition to those earned commissions.
The Superior Court of New Jersey denied Palmer’s claim that she was entitled to additional damages opining that the only remedy available to individuals under the Wage Payment Law is the timely payment of wages due. Palmer appealed, and the Appellate Division upheld the lower court’s decision. The Appellate Division explained that, while the Wage Payment Law does provide for additional penalties, it does not allocate those penalties to individual aggrieved employees. Rather, it imposes a continuing daily criminal fine, paid to the state, and potential administrative penalties, paid to the Department of Labor.
This decision reinforces the notion that an employee cannot recover more than his or her wages due for a violation of the Wage Payment Law. However, employers should be cognizant that this case does not deal with invidious discrimination or retaliation, which is a whole different ball game.