How New Jersey Employment Laws Protect Job Applicants During the Hiring Process, Part 1: Discrimination and Equal Pay

New Jersey’s employment laws protect workers from a wide range of concerns. They guarantee payment of a minimum wage and compensation for overtime work. They prohibit discrimination on the basis of factors like race, religion, gender, disability, military service, sexual orientation, gender identity, and more. They require reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees and employees who are nursing newborns. These protections apply to job applicants as well as employees, with the goal of ensuring a fair hiring process with opportunities for as many people as possible. Enforcing these rights may require the assistance of an employment lawyer with experience in New Jersey’s legal system. The following is the first installment in an overview of New Jersey laws protecting job seekers, to help you understand your rights.

Employment Discrimination

Employers may not subject employees or job applicants to discriminatory treatment based solely or primarily on certain factors or characteristics. This includes refusing to hire someone because they are part of a protected group. For a job applicant turned down for a job, it can be difficult to prove what motivated an employer’s decision. An employment discrimination lawyer can help build a case under state law.

Protected Categories

The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of the following factors:
– Race;
– Religion;
– Gender;
– Age;
– Disability;
– Pregnancy or breastfeeding;
– Marital, civil union, or domestic partnership status;
– Sexual orientation;
– Gender identity and gender expression;
– Military service obligations;
– Nationality or national origin; and
– Genetic information, including refusal to take a genetic test.

Reasonable Accommodations

The NJLAD requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for employees who are pregnant or breastfeeding. This includes a designated location that is not part of a bathroom where employees can express breast milk in privacy.

Equal Pay

New Jersey employment law prohibits employers from paying employees different amounts for the same work in certain circumstances.

Protected Categories

Pay disparity violates the NJLAD when members of a protected class are paid less than other employees “ for substantially similar work.” The employer may be excused in some cases, such as if the difference in pay is based on “legitimate, bona fide factors” besides protected characteristics.

Discussing Wages with Others

Employees and job applicants need to be able to discuss wages with others in the workplace in order to address possible disparities in pay. Employers often try to prevent such discussions from taking place. The NJLAD bars employers from taking adverse action against employees for talking to each other, or job applicants, about their wages or salary.

Salary History

Asking job applicants about salary history can be a way to reinforce disparities in wages, even unintentionally. If a person who belongs to a protected group under the NJLAD has received unequal pay in past jobs, basing their pay on how much they made before can perpetuate that cycle. Employers in New Jersey therefore cannot require job applicants to provide salary history, nor may they screen applicants based on past salary amounts. They can, however, consider any information about salary that an applicant provides voluntarily.

The employment attorneys at the Resnick Law Group can answer your questions and discuss your rights and options if you are involved in a dispute with an employer in New Jersey or New York. To schedule a confidential consultation to see how we can help you, please contact us today online, at 973-781-1204, or at 646-867-7997.

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