New Jersey Call Center Jobs Act: Potential Headaches for Employers

On January 21, 2020, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed into law the New Jersey Call Center Jobs Act (“Act”). A copy of the Act may be found here. The new law, designed to provide protection to call center employees in the State, includes strict notice requirements along with penalties for New Jersey employers relocating a call center overseas, or transferring call center operations out of state.

Under the Act, New Jersey call centers that employ at least 50 full-time employees or at least 50 workers who in the aggregate work 1,500 or more hours per week (excluding overtime) must maintain staffing levels capable of handling at least 65% of the employer’s customer volume of telephone calls, emails, or “other electronic communications” (“customer communications”) when measured against the previous six month average volume of communications originating from New Jersey callers or locations. If a call center’s staffing level falls below the required minimum levels, the employer must immediately notify the Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development (“Commissioner”).

In addition, any employer that relocates a call center, or transfers one or more of its operations comprising at least 20% of the call center’s total volume of customer communications as measured against the previous 12 month average volume to a foreign country, must notify the Commissioner 90 days before relocating the center or transferring operations.

The law imposes a civil penalty of up to $7,500 per day on an employer that fails to comply with either of the above notification requirements, collectible by the Commissioner through a summary proceeding. The Commissioner, however, may waive this penalty. The Act further requires the Commissioner to maintain and update a list of all employers that provide notice. Importantly, this list will be made publicly available and posted on the Department of Labor and Workforce Development’s website — accessible via link. Employers on the list are prohibited from receiving State grants, loans, tax benefits, or other financial support for 36 months after the date upon which they are added to the list (with limited exemptions, such as grants provided to employers for training and other educational assistance for its employees).

Employers should be cognizant of concerns and questions the Act raises. For example, the Act defines a call center broadly to mean a facility or other operation where workers receive telephone calls, emails or other electronic communications “for the purpose of providing customer assistance or other service.” It is unclear whether this broad definition was intended to include types of facilities or operations beyond a typical “call center.” In addition, the Act does not specify whether the minimum number of employees for coverage (50 employees) includes only New Jersey employees, or employees in the aggregate across operations.

The new law will take effect on July 1, 2020. New Jersey employers should review their existing practices to ensure compliance with the law’s requirements and to avoid penalties that may be imposed under this legislation.

If you have any questions regarding this blog, please feel free to contact an attorney in the Gibbons Employment & Labor Law Department.

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