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New Jersey Veterinarian Sues Employer for Pay Discrimination

Federal and state employment laws in New Jersey require equal pay for workers in highly similar jobs in various circumstances. The federal Equal Pay Act (EPA) specifically addresses equal pay in terms of sex discrimination. New Jersey’s Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act (NJEPA), on the other hand, takes on pay discrimination on the basis of any protected category under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD), which is a rather long list. Equal pay claims based on sex discrimination are among the most common type of claim. A federal lawsuit filed in early 2022 in New Jersey alleges pay discrimination based on sex under both federal and state law. If you feel you may be the victim of pay discrimination, it is important that you reach out to a New Jersey employment lawyer to discuss your situation.

The EPA, codified at 29 U.S.C. § 206(d), states that employers may not discriminate based on sex when employees of one sex receive higher pay for “equal work” that “requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility…under similar working conditions.” Male and female employees working in the same position, with similar levels of education, training, or skill, should receive the same amount of pay in most circumstances. The EPA allows exceptions for systems based on merit, seniority, “quantity or quality of production,” or other factors that are not based on employees’ sex. Employers may not reduce any employee’s pay in order to comply with the law.

The NJEPA, found at N.J. Rev. Stat. § 10:5-12(t), is similar to the EPA in the protections it offers. It is not limited to pay discrimination on the basis of sex. Other categories protected under the NJLAD include race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, pregnancy, and disability. The state law also allows exceptions for merit- or seniority-based systems, but its standard for other factors is arguably stricter than that of the EPA. An employer must show that the pay difference is solely based on factors other than sex, that it does not perpetuate pay discrimination based on any protected category, that the employer applies these factors “reasonably,” and that the factors are both “job-based” and “based on a legitimate business necessity.”

The plaintiff in the lawsuit mentioned above has worked as a veterinary pathologist for over thirty years. According to the complaint, the defendant hired her in August 2020 at $125,000 per year plus benefits. She worked with a team of pathologists under the supervision of one vice president. All decisions regarding pay, the plaintiff claims, were made by upper management and not her direct manager.

In early 2021, the plaintiff states that she learned that her salary “​​was significantly lower than at least two men who were also employed as veterinary pathologists.” She claims that she had the same job duties, workload, and working conditions as these two pathologists, but also that she had years more experience than either of them. One of the other employees made nearly twice as much as her. The plaintiff made an internal complaint, but alleges that the defendant took no action. She resigned her position near the end of 2021.

The lawsuit, filed in a New Jersey federal court in March 2022, asserts four causes of action. It makes two claims for equal pay violations under the EPA and NJEPA. It also alleges sex discrimination under the NJLAD and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The employment lawyers at the Resnick Law Group advocate for workers in New Jersey and New York who have experienced pay discrimination based on gender and other factors. 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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