Governor Murphy Plans to Pass New Equal Pay Law
Tomorrow, New Jersey Governor Philly Murphy plans on signing the Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act into state law. This new legislation will enable New Jersey to be the latest state to mandate comprehensive equal pay for all employees. The law plans to go into effect July 1, 2018. However, this law is not as similar as its counterparts in other states.
First things first, the Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act is named after the recently retired state legislator who championed equal pay and women’s rights for over twenty years. What makes this law different and more effective than similar laws in other states is that the legal protections will extend beyond gender and sex. It will also provide relief to all classes of employees protected under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (N.J.S.A. 10:5-12).
The current New Jersey wage and hour law currently prohibits employers from discriminating against an employee’s salary and wages based on gender and sex. The Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act will protect an employee’s salary and earned wages based on the full spectrum of protected characteristics.
According to law, it is unlawful for any “employer to pay any of its employees who is a member of a protected class at a rate of compensation, including benefits, which is less than the rate paid by the employer to employees who are not members of the protected class for substantially similar work, when viewed as a composite of skill, effort and responsibility.”
There are a handful of legally permissible reasons for different rates of pay, including job seniority and merit systems. However, New Jersey is much stricter when it comes to these legally permissible reasons. Different rates of pay may only be permitted if:
- The differential is based on one or more factors other than the protected characteristics, such as training, education, experience, and production
- The factors are not based on a differential in compensation based on sex or any other protected characteristics
- The factors are all applied properly
- One or more factors make up the entire wage differential
- The factors are job-related and based on a legitimate business necessity, where there are no alternative measures that would serve the same purpose without producing a wage differential
What Are Protected Characteristics Anyway?
Throughout the introduction to this new law, you’ve come across the term “protected characteristics.” If you aren’t sure what protected characteristics are, don’t worry. We will explain.
In New Jersey, protected characteristics are any feature that is prohibited from being discriminating against in an employment sense. The list of protected characteristics include race, religion, color, national origin, age, ancestry, nationality, marital status, sex, gender identity, disability, military service, sexual orientation, medical condition, and pregnancy.
More Damages Available Under the New Law
The Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act greatly increases the amount damages awarded to employees who win their lawsuits filed under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. If a jury decides that an employee was discriminated against in violation of the new law, the employee will be awarded treble damages, which are three times the amount of pay differential.
This new legislation also provides that an unlawful employment practice occurs every time an employee is the victim of discrimination through compensation. Each individual act of discriminatory pay is a separate act of discrimination. An affected employee can obtain back pay for a period of up to six years.
What Can You Do?
Even though this new law doesn’t go into effect for a few months, it’s never too late to be prepared and have an understanding of it. At the Law Offices of Anthony Carbone, we take on a variety of cases that affect the New Jersey people