Full Assembly Approves Bill to Strengthen Equal Pay Protections for New Jersey Workers
Aiming to close the significant wage gap between women and men, legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Joann Downey, Pamela Lampitt, Gary Schaer, Eric Houghtaling, Daniel Benson and Wayne DeAngelo to prohibit employers from requiring job applicants to disclose their salary history in the application process was approved Monday by the full Assembly by a vote of 53-24-2. “In an ideal world, your gender would not influence how much you earn at work. But that’s not the world we live in,” said Downey (D-Monmouth). “This bill provides a means of narrowing the wage gap by making it less likely for employers to unintentionally perpetuate the gap by basing salary offers for new hires on their previous salary, which has a disproportionate impact on female hires.” “Though equal pay was made law in New Jersey earlier this year, this legislation will take further steps towards leveling what was an unacceptably skewed playing field,” said Lampitt (D-Camden, Burlington). “Salary offers to new hires based primarily on their previous salaries only perpetuate the wage gap in our workforce. Working women deserve better.” The bill (A-1094) would prohibit employers from screening a job applicant based on his or her salary history, including prior wages, salaries or benefits. It would also make it unlawful for an employer to require an applicant’s salary history to satisfy any minimum or maximum criteria. Under the measure, an employer may still consider salary history in determining salary, benefits and other compensation for the applicant, and may verify the applicant’s salary history, if an applicant voluntarily, without coercion, provides the employer with that history. An applicant’s refusal to volunteer compensation information will not be considered in any employment decisions. “This is about equity and fairness,” said Schaer (D-Bergen, Passaic). “Under the protections imposed by this bill, employers would have to make their salary decisions based on what an applicant’s worth is to the company, rather than on what he or she made in a previous position.” “The gender wage gap puts women at a disadvantage before they even enter the workforce,” said Houghtaling (D-Monmouth). “These provisions can help put an end to this injustice by ensuring that salaries for new hires are not based on a system that is inherently biased against women.” “A woman working full time, year-round earns $10,800 less per year than a man, based on median annual earnings. This disparity can add up to nearly a half million dollars over a career, and have immediate, as well as lasting, effects” said Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex). “There is no question that women should be fairly compensated. This can help us continue to bridge the gap.” “This bill will reinforce and strengthen the groundbreaking equal pay law signed in 2018,” said DeAngelo (D-Mercer, Middlesex). “We must continue to fight to level the playing field in order to ensure fairness and equity in the workplace and to protect the rights of all workers.” Additionally, an employer who violates the bill’s provisions would be liable for a civil penalty in an amount not to exceed $1,000 for the first violation, $5,000 for the second, and $10,000 for each subsequent violation. Punitive damages, a standard remedy for violations under the Law Against Discrimination, would not be available for violations falling under this bill. The companion bill in the Senate (S-3516) has been referred the Senate Labor Committee for consideration.