The New Jersey governor signed an equal pay amendment into law on April 24, 2018, which amends the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. The new law will be effective on July 1, 2018, and it increases the equal pay protections for workers who are members of certain protected classes. Under the act, pay differences that are based on protected characteristics, including color, race, creed, nationality, age, sex, national origin, ancestry and others, will be prohibited. It will be illegal for employers to pay members of protected classes lower wages for work that is substantially similar to the work that is performed by other workers who are not members of the protected class.
The law indicates that employers may only pay different rates of compensation for work that is substantially similar if they can show the following:
- The difference in pay is based on a legitimate, bona fide factor such as the quality or quantity of production or the worker’s experience, education or training;
- The bona fide factors cannot perpetuate a pay difference that is based on a protected characteristic;
- The bona fide factors must be applied in a reasonable manner;
- The bona fide factors are responsible for all of the difference in the wages; and
- The factors are related to the job in question and are based on legitimate business needs.
The law also extends the anti-retaliation protections of the NJLAD to equal pay claims. This means that employers will not be able to retaliate against workers for speaking to anyone about equity pay information, including rates of compensation, job titles, occupational categories, and benefits. Workers will be allowed to ask for this information along with data about the race, gender, military status, ethnicity, national origin of the workers or former employees without fear of retaliation.
Under the new law, recoverable damages will be increased. The statute of limitations will also be extended to six years. Workers might be able to recover monetary damages of three times the amount owed if they can prove that they were the victims of unlawful wage discrimination, retaliation for talking about pay disparity, or if they were asked to waive their rights to complain. If the employer acted willfully, the workers may also recover punitive damages. Every payment that was illegally lower will constitute a separate violation of the law.
If you have learned that you are being paid less than your coworkers based on your protected status or characteristic, you might want to talk to the employment lawyers at Swartz Swidler. Contact us to schedule your consultation by filling out our contact form.