New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) has long been praised as one of the nation’s strongest pieces of legislation when it comes to fighting workplace discrimination. Now a new law is taking NJLAD one step farther and has established the Garden State as the most progressive state in the country when it comes to workplace equality. The Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act makes it illegal for any employer in the state of New Jersey to pay women or members of a protected class less than those who are not in a protected class.
The new law does more than simply prohibiting discriminatory pay practices. Those who are found guilty of discriminatory pay practices are liable for paying triple damages to their victims going back as far as six years. Further, employers are explicitly prohibited from taking any type of retaliatory actions against their employees for discussing pay equality issues, compensation, job titles, or other employment discrimination topics with co-workers or former colleagues, or with lawyers or government agencies. Employers are also prohibited from requiring that employees sign any type of waivers of statutory rights under the NJLAD as a condition of employment, and are not permitted to lower the pay scale of those who have previously been receiving higher pay in order to accommodate the law. The only action an employer may take is to offer a pay increase for those who have been unjustly compensated in the past.
Though the new law is winning praise on many fronts, one of its most notable aspects could be overly overlooked: where similar laws have used terminology that requires equal pay for equal work, the New Jersey law uses the term “substantially similar work.” This minor shift in language has a big impact, as it effectively prevents employers from assigning different job titles to employees in order to justify a difference in pay. Instead, an employee in a protected class will be able to argue that their job responsibilities – including number of employees they manage, knowledge base, working conditions, physical effort or educational level required - are equivalent to those that are receiving higher compensation, and therefore should be paid on an equal basis.
We are proud that New Jersey now has the “strongest pay equity bill in the nation,” as one state legislator described it. If you believe that you have been the victim of discriminatory pay practices and you would like to discuss how the new law impacts you, contact the attorneys at Schorr & Associates, P.C. today for a free initial consultation.