- New Jersey lawmakers have "reached an agreement" to increase the state's minimum wage from $8.85 per hour to $15 per hour by 2024, Gov. Phil Murphy (D) announced Jan. 17.
- The legislation, according to Murphy's office, will start with a bump to $10 per hour on July 1 and gradually increase. Seasonal employees and those at businesses with five workers or fewer wouldn't reach $15 until 2026, and details for agricultural workers would be finalized by the state's labor commissioner and secretary of agriculture.
- Murphy said he expects the move to benefit more than one million workers, but also noted that he and other leaders "must be sensitive to the impact it will have on working people who are below the 'safety net' and could be at risk of losing benefits as their wages increase."
If the proposed legislation is adopted as outlined, New Jersey will join a small group of states implementing a $15 per hour minimum wage in the coming years. Meanwhile, cities like San Francisco, Seattle and New York City are already serving as test cases.
Federal lawmakers also introduced a bill Jan. 16 that would gradually increase the federal minimum wage to $15 and eliminate the tipped minimum wage, but such proposals remain divisive at the federal level so bipartisan support may be unlikely.
Momentum for employee-friendly measures at the state and local levels, however, has picked up in recent years thanks to inaction at the federal level, experts say. The mandates, which include paid leave laws, salary history bans and predicable scheduling requirements, have proved particularly problematic for employers operating in multiple jurisdictions. And the legalization of recreational marijuana has been perhaps the most troubling of all, David Garland, a member of the firm Epstein Becker Green, previously told HR Dive. These initiatives show little sign of stopping, he said.
New Jersey may well be next in line for recreational marijuana, too. Murphy called for legalization in a Jan. 15 "state of the state" address. The move wouldn't be surprising for the state, which has been an early adopter of employee-friendly laws, especially under Murphy. Last spring, he signed one of nation's most robust pay equity measures, allowing employees to sue for up to six years of back pay and providing for triple damages. And while Murphy appears to have significant support for his initiatives, he's also facing stiff opposition; state residents say they're organizing a recall effort.