NEW LAW 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, Wayne DeAngelo and Paul Moriarty to prohibit employers from requiring job applicants to disclose their salary history in the application process was signed into law Thursday by Acting Governor Sheila Oliver.
“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). “Pay equity might be the law of the land in New Jersey, but we need a tool to properly enforce it. By banning questions about salary history, we can wipe away a history of bias and implicit discrimination, allowing women to start fresh with the compensation that they truly deserve.”
“Though equal pay was made law in New Jersey earlier this year, this law 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 new law (formerly bill A-1094) prohibits employers from screening a job applicant based on his or her salary history, including prior wages, salaries or benefits. It also makes it unlawful for an employer to require an applicant’s salary history to satisfy any minimum or maximum criteria.
Under the law, 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 law, employers will 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 law 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.”
“We’ve made great strides to ensure pay equity in New Jersey,” said Moriarty (D-Camden, Gloucester). “With the passage of this law, we are another step closer to securing workers’ rights to equal pay for equal work for generations to come.”
Additionally, an employer who violates the law’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 measure passed the full Assembly in March by a vote of 53-24, and the Senate in June by a vote of 26-9.