With Governor Phil Murphy still on vacation last week, Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver signed legislation into law that significantly strengthens the penalties for wage theft in New Jersey. S.1790, which Oliver signed last Friday with much fanfare, updates the New Jersey Wage Payment and Wage Hour laws by increasing penalties and enforcement activities. Under the new provisions, most of which took effect immediately, employers who violate the law are liable for the unpaid wage plus 200% liquidated damages as well as costs and attorney fees plus additional fines and penalties. Knowingly violating its provisions will now be a “disorderly persons” offense and subjects the employer to criminal penalties of $500 to $1000 and/or 10-90 days imprisonment for a first offense. Subsequent violations include fines of $1000 to $2000 and 10 – 100 days imprisonment, while a finding of a “pattern of wage non-payment” against an employer can lead to 3 -5 years in prison and $15,000 fine. Finally, any adverse action taken against an employee who’s brought a complaint or a claim of wage theft is presumed to be retaliatory, which shifts the burden of proof to the employer, and the penalties apply to all wage and hour violations.