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Veterinary Law Blog

Categories: Employment Law

Four Employment Law Issues Small Business Owners Need to Be Aware of in 2022

March 1, 2022

1) Marijuana Use by Employees: While the federal government is not going to legalize recreational marijuana, states and local jurisdictions continue to propose and pass legislation that addresses decriminalization of marijuana, recognition of medical marijuana use and legalization of recreational marijuana. Currently 34 states permit medical use of cannabis products, and 18 states and the Washington D.C. permit recreational use of marijuana. The laws in some of these states prohibit employers from taking adverse action against an employee.

What does this mean for your Practice? Regarding recreational marijuana you can still prohibit employees from being under the influence while working. With respect to medical marijuana, you must engage in the “interactive process” and determine if a “reasonable accommodation” can be provided to an employee whose medical condition requires that they be under the influence during working hours. Your practice should review its substance abuse policy to ensure that it complies with your state and local laws, and you should identify a local lab that can perform the testing required to determine if an employee is under the influence while at work.

2) Paid Leave: Although the paid leave requirements of the federal government’s covid relief legislation has sunset, many states, counties, and cities have enacted or are considering enacting paid leave laws. Additionally, the Build Back Better Act would provide each worker with four weeks of paid family/sick leave. Some of these laws will require paid sick leave, others will provide for paid family leave. Given that these laws can vary from state to state and even city to city it is important that you review your Practice’s paid and unpaid leave policies to ensure that you are following the requirements for each practice location.

3)  Pay Equity: This is no longer just a question of equal pay for equal work. In fact, in some states the standard has been revised to provide equal compensation, including benefits, for substantially similar work. Additionally, some states have enacted legislation that prohibits a prospective employer from inquiring about a candidate’s salary history. The Biden Administration has made this issue a priority and we anticipate some additional action from the Executive Brach. We recommend that you review the salaries and benefits being provided to all employees to ensure that there is consistency within each employee group.

4)  Worker Classification: The U.S. Department of Labor recently withdrew the prior administration’s final rule designed to simplify the classification of workers as independent contractors, leaving open the possibility that the agency might be looking to propose a new rule. Such a rule could expand the number of workers considered to be employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Additionally, some states have made the misclassification of an employee a crime.

We also expect continued focus on exempt v. non-exempt status. Failure to pay even a minimal amount of overtime can result in the Practice being responsible for the back wages, a penalty, treble damages, and attorney fees. Practices are required to comply with multiple federal and state laws and agency guidance when determining worker status, applying wage and hour and tax laws and eligibility for fringe benefits. If you have a question about whether an employee is exempt you should seek the advice of an experienced employment law attorney before designating the employee as ineligible for overtime. Brent Pohlman, a Partner in the Employment Law practice group at Mandelbaum Barrett is ready to help with these questions.

Attorney: Brent Pohlman
Related Practices: Labor and Employment and Veterinary Law

Employee Handbooks for Veterinary Practices

August 4, 2021

A handbook is an important resource that every veterinary practice should have, whether it has five, 25, or 50 employees. That’s because the key to healthy relationships between employers and employees is clear and consistent communication. Most workplace dissatisfaction, tension, and even litigation results from employees not knowing what’s expected of them, what they are entitled to, or the appearance of practices and polices being inconsistently applied. A handbook provides employees with the following:
  • An introduction to the practice’s culture, mission and values
  • An understanding of what’s expected of employees with respect to punctuality and attendance, job performance, attire, client and patient interactions, workplace communications and other items.
  • An explanation of employee benefits and how to make use of them.
  • An explanation of employee rights, and what steps an employee can take if they believe their rights may have been violated.
  • Information about how employees can communicate with management or ownership.
A handbook is also beneficial because it ensures compliance with federal, state, and local laws, and it can serve as a defense to claims in litigation. Drafting, distributing, and implementing a handbook is a great first step, but practice owners cannot put it on the shelf and forget about it. Ideally, a practice should review its handbook once a year for changes in employee benefits, new positions or updates to existing ones, and several other reasons, including:
  • Changes in federal, state, or local laws: Existing employment laws are continually being revised and new laws are being enacted all the time. A practice needs to ensure that is not inadvertently violating the law, which can lead to an agency investigation or lawsuit.
  • Changes in staffing levels: Many employment laws are based on the number of employees that work for an employer. As your practice grows there may be laws and regulations that you will now have to follow.
  • Adding new locations: If you open a location in a new city, county or state the handbook may need to be revised to address laws specific to that location.
  • Changes in practice or procedure: As a practice grows, new policies and procedures are often developed and implemented.

Attorneys: Peter Tanella and Brent Pohlman
Related Practice: Veterinary Law

A Guide on the Upcoming Minimum Wage Increases in New Jersey

July 1, 2019

In early January, Governor Phil Murphy and Democratic leaders of the Legislature struck a deal that would raise the minimum wage to $15.00 per hour in New Jersey. On Monday, February 4, Governor Murphy followed through on his campaign promise, signing the legislation that will increase the state’s minimum wage over the next few years.[1]  This deal places New Jersey among the most progressive states in the nation, joining California, New York, and Massachusetts, in phasing into a $15 hourly wage.[2]

While the wage increases are seen to be beneficial for employees, numerous small to medium-sized businesses are apprehensive about the reforms and impact on company revenues.  The good news is that the impending changes provide an opportunity for New Jersey employers to audit their pay practices and ensure that they are in compliance with all wage and hour laws.  Below summarizes the potential impact of the new ordinance and provides some tips for adjusting to the wage increases:

I.    Increases will continue through 2024

The new minimum wage ordinance will not occur immediately.  Rather, the deal sets forth a gradual increase until it reaches $15 dollars per hour in January 1, 2024.  The current minimum wage in New Jersey is $8.85 per hour.  The following chart details the scheduled increases in the state’s minimum wage.

  • On July 1, 2019 – the minimum wage will increase to $10.00 per hour.
  • On January 1, 2020 – the minimum wage will increase to $11.00 per hour.
  • On January 1, 2021 – the minimum wage will increase to $12.00 per hour.

The minimum wage would then increase on January 1 by $1 each year from 2022 to 2024 until topping out at $15 per hour.[3]  The new minimum wage will apply to most workers in the state, although there are a few so called carve-outs.  The deal calls for most wage earners to receive a minimum of $15 an hour by 2024, but includes a slower schedule for workers at seasonal businesses, small businesses with five or fewer employees, and farmworkers.  Farm workers, for example, will see their minimum wage climb to just $12.50 an hour over five years.  Seasonal workers and small businesses with five people or fewer would see their minimum wages reach $15 an hour by 2026.[4]

II.    The Business Impact

Although raising the minimum wage is generally seen as beneficial for employees, there can be certain costs for businesses operating in the state.  Specifically, small businesses in New Jersey could feel the brunt of the minimum wage increases.  Opponents believe that the announcement reflects another potential hit to small businesses who are already absorbing cumulative costs in other forms of new mandates by the Murphy administration.  Nearly 70 percent of respondents to the latest NJBIA business-outlook survey[5] said their businesses would be impacted in some way if the state were to enact legislation mandating a $15 minimum wage.  To offset such a requirement, they said some businesses — though not a majority of them — would reduce staff and working hours, and enact price increases or turn to automation.[6]

Overall, it is estimated that over 1 million New Jersey workers will be impacted by the minimum wage changes, according to the governor and lawmakers.[7]  As a result, employers and businesses should weigh the impact of a higher minimum wage on profitability, hiring, and overall finances.

III.    Staying Compliant

Now more than ever, states, counties, and cities, who do not see movement at the federal level, are implementing specific minimum wage laws in their jurisdictions. As a result, employers must ensure that they comply with federal, state, and local minimum wage laws.  While the federal minimum wage ($7.25 per hour) isn’t changing next year, the state of New Jersey and many other states will have new minimum wage rates throughout 2019.

These new minimum wage ordinances can increase compliance risks for employers, requiring new workplace postings and changes to existing workplace policies.  Therefore, employers need to be cognizant of the legal liabilities they could face if company wage and hour policies are not in compliance prior to the increase.  Compliance is essential; employers in violation of payroll regulations can face penalties, including steep fines and civil litigation.  When dealing with questions about minimum wage and overtime statutes, it is recommended that all employers consult with experienced counsel.

IV.    Preparing for the Changes: Adjusting Pay Structures

In states that have significantly increased their minimum wages, the financial impacts often occur immediately and can be burdensome for small business owners.  Employers should find ways to manage the effect on increase of pay structures.  For example, if the minimum wage increases and jobs that currently pay $10 an hour are not entry-level positions – but a next level up – there could be a compression issues. Thus, employers should adjust their payment structures and account for them to be shifted up.  The best way for making this wage shift can depend on the specific company and its compensation structure.  Employers do not have to adjust all levels, but it is important to consider adjusting lower-paid jobs from a certain hourly rate on down.

V.    Employees Earning More than the Minimum Wage

When the minimum wage increases, some employers wonder if they should also provide a raise to employees already earning equal to or more than the new rate.  For example, if the minimum wage increases from $9 per hour to $10 per hour, should an employee already earning $10 per hour also get a raise?  While the employer is under no obligation to provide a raise, some employees may be expecting one.  In this scenario, the employer should consider the potential impact on labor costs, employee morale, internal equity (how employees are paid when compared with other employees within your company based on skills and experience), and the typical merit increase schedule.

VI.    Conclusion

As a result of Governor Murphy’s new deal, New Jersey’s minimum wage will continue to increase, starting July 1, 2019.  With the patchwork of federal, state, and local minimum wage laws becoming more complicated, employers and organizations will need to pay more attention to the these issues and payment structures.  Paying small business employees fairly begins with gaining a good understanding of the minimum wage laws.  In doing so, employers need to remain compliant and cognizant to changes at the federal, state, and municipal level.  Advanced legal planning will help employers – both public and private sector – to comply with the new minimum wage thresholds.

Enlisting the help of outside legal counsel can assure compliance with the complex patchwork of different minimum wage laws. Mandelbaum Barrett PC is a full-service law firm focusing on providing exceptional legal counsel to its clients. Our labor and employment attorneys are uniquely qualified to assist you and your business in achieving full compliance with New Jersey labor laws. Please feel free to contact us if there are any issues that we can assist you with.


Mandelbaum Barrett PC provides legal alerts to inform readers regarding trending legal issues and developments in the law. This communication does not create, offer, or reduce to writing the existence of an attorney-client relationship.   This communication is not legal advice and may not apply to the specific facts of any particular matter.

For more information, please contact Peter Tanella at 973.243.7915 or

[1] New Jersey Becomes 4th State to Increase Minimum Wage to $15, CBS News (February 5, 2019),

[2] Nick Corasaniti, In New Jersey, the Minimum Wage is Set to Rise to $15 an Hour, new york times (Jan. 17, 2019),

[3] Mike Catalini, New Jersey Governor, Lawmakers Make $15 Minimum Wage Deal, nbc philadelphia (Jan. 18, 2019),

[4] Murphy, Dems Reach Minimum Wage Deal, nj herald (Jan. 18, 2019),

[5] NJBIA’s 60th Annual Business Outlook Survey, New Jersey Business & Industry Association,

[6] Id.

[7] David Levinsky, Murphy, Legislative Leaders Reach Deal on $15 Minimum Wage, (Jan. 17, 2019)

Attorney: Peter Tanella
Related Practice: Veterinary Law
Category: General Practice Governance, Employment Law, Hot Topics in Vet Law