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New Jersey Department of Labor v. Pepsi Cola Company

170 N.J. 59, 784 A.2d 64 (2001)

WAGE LAW—Where equitable, the Commissioner of the Department of Labor has the right to award post-interest judgment in connection with awards of back pay.

The New Jersey Department of Labor commenced an enforcement action against a company for payment of overtime wages to the company’s employees. It assessed back wages, a penalty, and administrative fees. The company requested a hearing before an administrative law judge. A union local intervened on behalf of the employees. The company conceded that several employees were entitled to compensation for overtime. The union requested back pay and pre-judgment interest on the wages for those employees. The administrative law judge refused to award pre-judgment interest. The Commissioner of the Department of Labor affirmed the decision, but elected to include pre-judgment interest. The Commissioner determined that, because the employees waited six years to receive the back wages, it was only fair to include pre-judgment interest. The company appealed. The Appellate Division affirmed the decision of the Commissioner to include pre-judgment interest in the award of back wages. Its opinion was that since the Commissioner’s job is to make sure that employees receive the wages due them, adding pre-judgment interest to the recovery helps the employee recoup the loss of interest or investment potential of that money, had it been paid timely. The Supreme Court affirmed. It found that although the Commissioner’s powers are limited to those powers expressly provided in the statute or the powers that are necessarily implied in order to carry out his duties, here was a case where it was appropriate and proper for the Commissioner to enforce the Wage and Hour Law by adding pre-judgment interest.


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