Equal Pay Law Takes Effect in New Jersey

equal payA new law, entitled the Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act (DAEPA), went into effect in New Jersey on July 1, 2018. Described by the media as “the strongest equal pay law in America,” the law amends the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) to address disparities in pay based on all protected categories. If a covered business pays workers at different rates, it must justify the difference based on factors like education or experience. The state recently issued reporting forms for businesses that enter into certain contracts with the state, which they must submit to the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

The federal Equal Pay Act (EPA) of 1963 prohibits paying employees at different rates “on the basis of sex” in jobs that “require[] equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and…are performed under similar working conditions.” 29 U.S.C. § 206(d)(1). The statute allows exceptions where the disparity is based on seniority, merit, “quantity or quality of production,” or other non-sex-based factors. Id. The EPA amended the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), and allows complainants to recover damages through the same process for minimum wage and overtime violations. Id. at § 206(d)(3). The law has a two-year statute of limitations, meaning that complainants cannot recover damages for more than two years of New Jersey equal pay violations. Id. at §§ 216(c), 255(a).

The DAEPA was introduced in the New Jersey Legislature as Senate Bill 104 on January 9, 2018, and as Assembly Bill 1 on March 22. It passed both houses on March 26, and was signed into law by the governor on April 24, with an effective date of July 1. According to media analyses of federal labor statistics, female workers are paid eighty-two cents for every dollar paid to male workers in New Jersey. This number includes all women throughout the state. For women of color, the pay disparity is much greater. The DAEPA goes further than equal pay statutes that focus on sex or gender. It prohibits pay discrimination on the basis of any protected class identified by the NJLAD, such as race, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, etc.

In addition to the broader scope of protection, the DAEPA also differs from the federal EPA by allowing complainants to recover damages for up to six years of unequal pay, instead of two years. See N.J. Rev. Stat. § 10:5-12(a), as amended. Complainants can recover up to three times their actual monetary damages. Id. at § 10:5-13. Employers are prohibited from paying workers who belong to a protected class at a different rate than other workers “for substantially similar work, when viewed as a composite of skill, effort and responsibility.” Id. at § 10:5-12(t). The law allows similar exceptions as federal law, such as merit- or experience-based disparities. In order to ensure that employees can obtain information about possible pay disparities, the law also protects workers’ ability to communicate with one another about wages. Id. at § 10:5-12(r).

The employment attorneys at the Resnick Law Group represent employees, former employees, and job seekers in New Jersey and New York, advocating for their rights in state and federal courts. To schedule a confidential consultation with a member of our team, please contact us today at 973-781-1204, at 646-867-7997, or online.

More Blog Posts:

Laws in New Jersey and at Federal Level Prohibit “Pay Secrecy” Policies by Employers, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, February 23, 2016

New Jersey Governor Signs Law Designed to Help Women Gain Access to Equal Pay in the Workplace, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, November 1, 2013

New Jersey Gender Discrimination Target of New Pay Parity Law, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, October 17, 2012

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