Perspective: Torrissi in Trenton
I’m proud to say that I saw my first piece of legislation pass the New Jersey State Assembly. Recently, the Assembly unanimously voted in favor of a bill sponsored by myself and my district mate, Assemblyman Brandon Umba.
Once it passes the Senate, the law would allow authorized Department of Labor employees to give guidance to employers about worker violations.
You wouldn’t think something like this is necessary, right? If the Department of Labor tells you as an employer that what you’re doing is fine, that advice should be solid. But that wasn’t the case a couple of years ago, when a court ruling found that Cream-O-Land Dairy broke overtime wage laws, even after it obtained guidance from Department of Labor supervisors to the contrary.
Apparently, the current law is ambiguous in nature and was interpreted that guidance must be given by the Department of Labor Commissioner himself for it to be taken as fact. This is another example of how hard New Jersey makes it on businesses to operate. The web of regulations creates confusion that could ding businesses up with fines even when they think they’re doing everything right.
Our law, which was endorsed by NJBIA and the Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey, would authorize permitted employees of the Department of Labor to interpret labor law and employer compliance on behalf of the department. It would help protect businesses from situations like at Cream-O-Land Dairy, where they were told they were following labor laws and later were sued for operating on what they thought was a legal basis.
This is all very technical, but it’s good to see at least one thing being done in Trenton to make life easier for businesses. It’s also exciting to have an impact at the Statehouse with laws you write being put up for a vote.
It even passed with some good old-fashioned freshman hazing. The 80-member body decided to bust our balls and all vote “no” on the bill, knowing it was our first one to come up for a vote on the Assembly floor. They then all changed their votes to “yes” while laughing at our confusion.
The practical joke hadn’t been played since before the pandemic. It was nice to see both sides of the aisle lay down their swords and have a moment of camaraderie. Hopefully, it’s a sign of more to come. Altogether, it was a good day at the New Jersey Statehouse.
Michael Torrissi Jr.