Federal Lawsuit Alleges Gender Discrimination Under the Equal Pay Act

Federal and state law prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sex, particularly with regard to salary and wages. New Jersey’s newly-enacted Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act (DAEPA) is one of the most comprehensive laws in the country addressing wage disparities based on sex. The federal Equal Pay Act (EPA), while offering fewer protections, applies more broadly throughout the country. Both statutes allow employees to file suit and recover damages for wage discrimination. A lawsuit that is currently pending in a federal court alleges a widespread pattern of sex discrimination in wages and other features of employment. Cahill et al v. Nike, Inc., No. 3:18-cv-01477, complaint (D. Ore., Aug. 9, 2018). Although the case is filed in Oregon, where the defendant maintains in main headquarters, it could also affect workers in New Jersey and New York. The defendant has a significant presence in this part of the country, and recently opened a regional headquarters in New York City. If you have questions regarding possible instances of discrimination at your workplace, contact a New Jersey employment discrimination attorney to discuss.

The federal EPA was enacted as an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). It prohibits employers who are covered by the FLSA from paying workers of different genders at different rates “for equal work on jobs” that “require[] equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions.” 29 U.S.C. § 206(d)(1). Employers are not liable for wage disparities resulting from systems that are based on “seniority,” “merit,” “quantity or quality of production,” or “any other factor other than sex.” Id. Employees alleging wage discrimination based on sex are subject to a two-year statute of limitations.

New Jersey’s DAEPA, which took effect in July 2018, includes the same exceptions as the EPA for systems based on seniority, merit, etc., but it goes into more detail about these exceptions. Any differential in pay must be based on “legitimate, bona fide factors other than the characteristics of members of the protected class.” N.J. Rev. Stat. § 10:5-12(t)(1), as amended. Employees have six years to file suit for alleged violations.

Two women filed suit in Cahill against their former employer, a major manufacturer of athletic apparel, claiming that “the company hierarchy is an unclimbable pyramid” for female employees. Cahill, complaint at 2. The complaint alleges widespread sex discrimination that results in few promotions, “lower salaries, smaller bonuses, and fewer stock options.” Id. The defendant determines compensation, according to the plaintiffs, with a system “based, in part, on prior compensation.” Id. at 3. This, they claim, places female employees at an immediate disadvantage. Complaints to human resources and senior management allegedly go ignored, and in some cases the plaintiffs allege that individuals reporting sex discrimination are subject to retaliation by their supervisors or management.

The lawsuit asserts causes of action under the federal EPA and state law, including Oregon’s Equal Pay Act and its antidiscrimination statute. The plaintiffs assert a class action, and they also cite the collective action provisions of the FLSA to assert claims “in behalf of…themselves and other employees similarly situated.” 29 U.S.C. § 216(b).

At the Resnick Law Group, our team of skilled and experienced employment attorneys advocates for the rights of employees, former employees, and job seekers in New Jersey and New York in claims under state and federal law. Please contact us today at 973-781-1204, at 646-867-7997, or online to schedule a confidential consultation to see how we can help you.

More Blog Posts:

Equal Pay Law Takes Effect in New Jersey, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, September 20, 2018

New Jersey Lawsuits Allege Failure to Pay Overtime Wages, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, December 8, 2017

Department of Labor Expands Eligibility for Overtime Pay Under the FLSA, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, August 12, 2016


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