New Jersey fights gender wage gap with Equal Pay Act

NEW JERSEY — It’s the most sweeping equal pay protection in the country.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed the historic legislation on Tuesday, making it illegal for employers to offer lower pay and benefits to women and minorities, than they would to men for similar work.

“By allowing victims of pay discrimination to be awarded treble damages, by authorizing 6 years of back pay to make victims whole, by prohibiting employers from acting against those who go public with their situation and by ensuring no one is signing their right for equal pay,” said Murphy. “To those who thought they could get away to pay a woman less just because they could, today is your wake up call.”

The Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act, named in honor of former Republican Senator Diane Allen, who worked on the legislation, is designed to help women close the wage gap. The law takes effect July 1st.

Fil-Am Attorney Josephine Escalante who represented labor unions nationally, tells BA, this is certainly the most progressive equal pay legislation in the country.

“It’s a really significant departure from the past equal pay legislation. And I think for the Filipino community, given the fact that it covers so many protected classes, including national origin, and goes beyond just gender-based equal pay discrimination is really a significant step in helping the situation in the workplace,” said Escalante.

The legislature passed similar bills three times during Governor Chris Christie’s eight-year tenure.

But Christie vetoed them all saying current law covers gender-based pay discrimination.

Statistics and studies show, however, that women working full time typically are still getting paid just 80 percent of what men are paid.

Asian women are paid on average 87 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men.

“The fact it actually provides a provision that prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who want to discuss their salaries with their co-workers, to see if there are any kind of disparities based on discrimination, that’s also significant.”

 

80-year-old Lilly Ledbetter who worked for Goodyear tire and rubber company in Alabama for 20 years, only found out towards the end of her career that she was paid forty percent less than her male colleagues.

She sued but lost the case in the Supreme Court, because the law at the time required for her to file suit 180 days from her first paycheck.

 

“Not only that affixed my family at that time. And my livelihood but it goes on for the rest of your life it’s your retirement it’s your 401-k it’s your social security. So it’s so critical and so important to get this right from the beginning.”

Employers are not required to pay everyone the same, but they must show how the employees’ experience and background sets them apart.

 

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