Police said that Maria Fernandes, 32, was killed by exhaust fumes. Her body was found Monday in the parking lot on Route 1, where she apparently pulled in to nap after an overnight shift at a Dunkin Donuts in Linden.
Fernandes also worked in restaurants in Newark and Harrison, both a few miles up Route 1 from Linden.
Joseph Seneca, who teaches economics at Rutgers University, called Fernandes "the real face of the recession," with more people dependent on part-time work.
"The cold statistics don't get to show the real people those that are patching these jobs together," Seneca told the Star-Ledger of Newark. "This is the horrible tragic circumstances of making those jobs work."
A friend, Richard Culhane, described Fernandes, a Newark resident, as extraordinarily generous. He said her life of part-time work was partly her own choice, since Fernandes, who was born in Massachusetts and spent part of her childhood in Portugal, spoke four languages and was working on a fifth.
"I told her she could get a better job, but she said she didn't want to work in an office," Culhane said.