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Monday, May 16, 2016

Sex, Race, Equal Pay and the Wage Gap in 2016

Women who are a racial or ethnic minority may experience employer discrimination based on their sex coupled with their race more then than any other demographic. Synergy is defined as the interaction of two or more characteristics or things that produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects. In common terms, when there is synergistic effect, one plus one does not equal two, but equals three or more. Workers who are women and who also are in a racial minority group may experience the synergist effect of discrimination that is greater than what would be the sum total of discrimination because one is a female plus the discrimination because one is a person of color. For African American women and Latinas, this is certainly not news, but you have a right to bring a lawsuit if race and/or sex is a factor is your being paid less than white male workers who perform the same job functions.

According to a study by the National Women’s Law Center released April 2016, a woman in the United States starting her career, over the course of 40 years will lose $430,480. However for women of color, this lifetime wage gap is more than doubled. For African American women, it is more than $877,000 on the average nationally.  For Latinas starting their career, this lifetime wage gap is even more disparate: $1,007,080. In New Jersey, the gap between female and male workers is higher than the national average: a New Jersey woman starting her career can expect to earn $477,080 less than men over a 40 year career.

However, New Jersey fares far worse as to equal pay when one considers not only the sex of the worker but also the race. When the characteristics of race and sex are both considered, the divide in the wage gap as compared to white mail counterparts is staggering; the NJ sex-race wage gap divide far exceeds in the national sex-race wage gap. 

In New Jersey, for women who are racial minorities:

• African America women will earn a staggering $1,231,600 less compared to a white male counterparts over a 40 year period.

• Latinas will earn $1,685,120 less compared to a white male counterparts over a 40 year period, an even bigger gap.

• Native American women will earn $1,220,880 less compared to a white male counterparts over a 40 year period.

• Asian American women will earn $416, 560 less compared to a white male counterparts over a 40 year period.
New Jersey has two statutes enacted to further improving the status of women in the workforce, particularly with respect to their compensation: the New Jersey Equal Pay Act (EPA) and the New Jersey Law against Discrimination ( LAD). Under the LAD, a female plaintiff who is a racial or ethnic minority or a person of color may sue the employer for discrimination in wages under both race discrimination, and/or ethnic origin discrimination and also sex discrimination in the same lawsuit.

The LAD is violated if an employer not only pay women less than men who are performing similar work, but also if the employer assigns additional tasks or a heavier workload to a worker because of their sex or race, than a white male who has the same job. It is also illegal to pay less to the worker because the job assignment may involve working with persons who are female or are a racial minority, which discrimination under the LAD could be associational discrimination.  (Such acts may also violate the Educational statute,  as where it was found in Elmwood Park Educational Assn v. Elmwood Park Board of Education (1980) that it is illegal to pay school coaches lower wages solely because of the sex of the student participants.)

If you have been denied opportunities for advancement, harassed, paid less or terminated from your job and you believe that your race or sex may have been a factor, it is essential for you to contact an experienced, competent and compassionate employment discrimination attorney who will be aggressive about enforcing your rights.

Every situation is fact specific, and if you are a person who believes you may be the target of the employer’s illegal discrimination, please contact Hope A. Lang, Attorney at Law, today for a free consultation.

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