Last week was one for the history books in New Jersey.

Gov. Phil Murphy announced Tuesday that he will sign new equal pay legislation, making it the most comprehensive in the nation. Effective July 1, 2018, this law will make it illegal to offer unequal pay to employees for substantially similar work as long as skill, effort, and responsibilities are weighed.

Here’s what you need to know.

The Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act

Diane B. Allen, a recently retired state lawmaker, heavily supported pay equity and women’s rights during her tenure. According to NJ.com, she was praised by her former colleagues for her work, so it only made sense to name the new law after her.

Current pay legislation in New Jersey

New Jersey’s existing Law Against Discrimination prohibits employers from discriminating the rate or method of payment to any employee because of:

  • Race
  • Creed
  • Color
  • National origin
  • Nationality
  • Ancestry
  • Age
  • Sex (including pregnancy and sexual harassment)
  • Marital status, domestic partnership or civil union status
  • Sexual orientation and gender identity
  • A number of disabilities. [Full list can be found here.]

While workers have already had some protections under the current rule, the new law amends legislation by increasing damages owed for violations. Employees would now receive three times the amount of pay differential if the court determines they have been discriminated against on the basis of pay.

What employers need to know about New Jersey’s Equal Pay Law

Remember, employers aren’t required to pay everyone the same, as long as factors such as experience, education, quantity and quality of production are taken into account. Employers who pay one employee more than another will be required to demonstrate how their experience or education makes that person’s wages fair.

NJ.com also explains that employers are prohibited from cutting wages of higher-paid staff in order to make salaries comparable.

Employees with evidence of wage discrimination can now receive back pay up to six years.

The new law also prohibits employers from retaliating against workers who discuss their compensation with current or previous co-workers, a lawyer, or any government agency. If an employee succeeds on a claim that they were required to sign a waiver that they wouldn’t disclose this type of information as a condition of employment, they would be eligible for the increased damages. 

What can you do now? The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) suggests that it’s a good idea for employers to be proactive and examine existing pay policies to ensure compliance. 

You can also read the full bill here.

Share your thoughts

The fight for equal pay isn’t new and certainly is far from over. With an entire #EqualPayDay and social media campaign dedicated to the discussion, could New Jersey’s sweeping regulations be a foresight into what’s to come?

What are your thoughts on the new equal pay law? Would you like to see more states adopting such stiff regulations?

Disclaimer: Please note that this is not all inclusive. Our guidance is designed only to give general information on the issues actually covered. It is not intended to be a comprehensive summary of all laws which may be applicable to your situation, treat exhaustively the subjects covered, provide legal advice, or render a legal opinion. Consult your own legal advisor regarding specific application of the information to your own plan.