Branch v. Cream-O-Land Dairy

In Branch v. Cream-O-Land Dairy, an employee sued his employer under the New Jersey Wage and Hour Law, N.J.S.A. 34:11-56a to -56a38 because the employee thought he was entitled to certain overtime wages. But the employer invoked a defense under N.J.S.A. 34:11-56a4(f). That statutory defense is available to “trucking industry employers” who relied in good faith on certain Department of Labor and Workforce Development (Department) determinations. The NJ Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s order entering summary judgment in the employer’s favor. The Court noted that the statutory defense was only available when the employer relied in good faith on a decision issued by the Commissioner of the Department. Here, the employer relied on prior opinions from a hearing and review officer, a senior investigator, and a Section Chief. Since none of those opinions were from the Commissioner, they could not form the basis of the statutory defense. The Court noted that the employer appeared to act in good faith and suggested that the Department clarify this issue prospectively.

Elmer