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Tuesday, May 1, 2018

African Americans and Unequal Pay: NJ Governor Signs Most Aggressive Equal Pay Act in the Country

On April 24, 2018, New Jersey’s Governor, Gov. Phil Murphy, signed what is being hailed as the most aggressive equal pay act in the United States. This is great news for African Americans, women and other protected minorities who historically frequently receive less pay for the same or similar type work than other workers. This equal pay act, the Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act dramatically expands the wage discrimination protections given to NJ employees, and amends the New Jersey law Against Discrimination. The bill will take effect on July 1, 2018. Prior to this bill, a federal statute signed in 2009, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (LLFPA), only addressed wage discrimination based on sex but not other protected classes such as African Americans and older workers.

The protected classes given protection under this new equal pay act are the recognized classes under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD),  including but not limited to color, national origin, ancestry, age, marital status, civil union status, domestic partnership status,  race, creed, affectional or sexual orientation, genetic information, pregnancy or breastfeeding, sex, gender identity or expression, or disability. You can read the entire text of this bill on the New Jersey Legislature Website. 

Not Just a Prohibition Against Unequal Pay for the Same Work but Also for Substantially Similar Work When Viewed as a Composite

The Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act makes it illegal for an employer o pay a person in a protected class less wages than other workers, not just for the same work or position, but additionally takes into context the character and skill of the job as a whole.  

The Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act now makes it illegal:

“For an employer to pay any of its employees who is a member of a protected class at a rate of compensation, including benefits, which is less than the rate paid by the employer to employees who are not members of the protected class for substantially similar work, when viewed as a composite of skill, effort and responsibility.  An employer who is paying a rate of compensation in violation of this subsection shall not reduce the rate of compensation of any employee in order to comply with this subsection.”

Hurdles for Paying a Different Rate of Pay

Under the Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act, an employer may pay a different rate of compensation only if the employer demonstrates that the differential is made pursuant to a seniority system, a merit system, or the employer demonstrates a series of factors which are:

 (1)   That the differential is based on one or more legitimate, bona fide factors other than the characteristics of members of the protected class, such as training, education or experience, or the quantity or quality of production;

(2)   That the factor or factors are not based on, and do not perpetuate differential in compensation based on sex or any other characteristic of members of a protected class;

(3)   That each of the factors is applied reasonably;

(4)   That one or more of the factors account for the entire wage differential; and

(5)   That the factors are job-related with respect to the position in question and based on a legitimate business necessity.  A factor based on business necessity shall not apply if it is demonstrated that there are alternative business practices that would serve the same business purpose without producing the wage differential.

The Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act makes it illegal for an employer to require employees or prospective employees to consent to a shortened statute of limitations or to waive any of the protections otherwise provided by the NJLAD. What is also new in these amendments to the NJLAD is that the monetary recovery period in discrimination wage lawsuits now extends back to six years as opposed to the previously allowed two years.

What You Can Do

If you believe that your employer used race or some other prohibited factor such as sex, age etc., as the determining factor as to your pay, you should contact an experienced employment law attorney. I am an aggressive and compassionate employment law attorney who is experienced in representing women, older workers, the disabled and other minorities. I accept discrimination cases from all over New Jersey.

If you are being subjected to such unlawful workplace discrimination, contact Hope A. Lang, Attorney at Law today for a free consultation.

New Jersey employment attorney, Hope A. Lang, Attorney at Law serves clients throughout the state, including Bergen, Middlesex, Essex, Hudson, Monmouth, Ocean, Union, Camden, Passaic, and Morris Counties with locations in Southern, Central, Western and Northern NJ to meet with clients.



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