John Sarno, president of the Employers Association of NJ, recalls helping an employer by trying to persuade the NJ Department of Labor to permit asking an employee to reimburse his employer when the employee used the company credit card for a personal reason.
For weeks, Sarno says, the Department took the position that requiring the employee to reimburse the employer would violate state wage payment law.
“So we asked - it’s okay to fire the employee for using the company card for personal reasons but not okay to ask him to reimburse the company and keep their job?”
Sarno recalls getting a letter that basically said “if you don’t like it, change the law.”
And that’s when EANJ began trying to influence the law, not by lobbying - but by litigating.
EANJ has appeared over a dozen times before the Supreme Court of New Jersey. In addition to filing legal briefs, Sarno is frequently granted oral argument. Most of the decisions have wide repercussions on employers. See cases here.
Earlier this year, the organization appeared in Puglia v. Elk Pipeline. The issue in the case is whether the National Labor Relations Act preempts state law civil claims under the Conscientious Employee Protection Act that arise out of a collective bargaining agreement or that relate to terms and conditions of employment common to employees.
The case is being watched closely by lawyers and labor unions.
Sarno says that whistleblower lawsuits against employers have doubled in five years. At the same time, the national labor board has extended its reach over many workplace disputes between employers and employees.
“We can’t have endless litigation across multiple venues,” says Sarno.
“One bite at the apple is sufficient to adjudicate a dispute. If employees have protection under the national labor law, they should use it and not run into court for every disagreement,” he says.