Plaintiff Elmer Branch and the putative class of similarly situated truck drivers appeal the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of defendant Cream-O-Land Dairy and dismissal of their class-action complaint alleging a failure to pay overtime wages in violation of the New Jersey Wage and Hour Law ("WHL"), N.J.S.A. 34:11-56a to -56a38. Under the WHL's good-faith defense, an employer is entitled to a complete bar on liability for violations of the WHL if it acted "in good faith in conformity with and in reliance on any written administrative regulation, order, ruling, approval or interpretation by the Commissioner of the [Department of Labor and Workforce Development] or the Director of the Wage and Hour Bureau, or any administrative practice or enforcement policy of such department or bureau with respect to the class of employers to which he belonged." N.J.S.A. 34:11-56a25.2. The trial court determined that defendant was entitled to the good-faith defense based on its reliance on three determinations made by the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development ("DOL") officials in response to complaints brought by individual employees.
Considering the legislative purpose and the plain language of the WHL, the court holds, in this matter of first impression, that such discrete determinations by DOL officials – which do not rise to a degree of formality so as to constitute broadly applicable guidance by the DOL and are in any event subject to further administrative appeal – do not constitute an "administrative practice or enforcement policy" and are thus insufficient to invoke the good-faith defense. N.J.S.A. 34:11-56a25.2. Accordingly, the court reverses the trial court's grant of summary judgment and remands for further proceedings..