New Jersey Law Against Discrimination Now Protects Workers from "Salary Secrecy" by Prohibiting Retaliation for Inquiring About Wage Discrimination
An amendment to the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) that took effect in January 2014 protects employees from retaliation by employers for asking about co-workers' salaries as part of an investigation into wage discrimination. Prior to this amendment, New Jersey labor law already protected workers, commonly known as whistleblowers, who investigated or reported various unlawful practices by their employers, but did not protect workers who investigated certain practices. Many companies employment have "salary secrecy" policies that prevent employees from inquiring about other employees' wages, making wage discrimination claims difficult.
Despite laws at the state and federal level prohibiting overt wage discrimination based on gender, the gap in wages between men and women is alive and well in New Jersey and around the country. Salary secrecy is among the biggest reasons for this continued disparity. Companies discourage employees from discussing pay with one another, and in some cases, even terminate employees for asking about other employees' wages. A 2012 Forbes article found that companies with salary secrecy policies often had little justification for the policies aside from management's unwillingness to explain their salary decisions to others. Such policies may also increase employee dissatisfaction and reduce overall efficiency, while more transparent policies have had positive results. The new amendment to the NJLAD effectively bans salary secrecy in New Jersey.
New Jersey law prohibits sex discrimination "in the rate or method of payment of wages." N.J. Rev. Stat. § 34:11-56.2. It also prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who complain to the employer or the New Jersey Civil Rights Commission about alleged wage discrimination. N.J. Rev. Stat. § 34:11-56.6. The statute does not specifically mention investigations of possible wage discrimination, and this is where salary secrecy policies can prevent employees from asserting their rights.