Fighting Wage Discrimination in the Workplace in New Jersey
Wage discrimination – or being paid less than comparable employees for similar work based on gender, race, or any other factor – is a common problem in the United States. According to American Progress, white women made $0.79 for every dollar white men made in 2018, while black women made $0.62. Fortunately, New Jersey has strong protections for employees against wage discrimination in the workplace.
From our offices in Red Bank, NJ, and Marlton, NJ, McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C. represents both employees and employers throughout the state in a wide range of employment discrimination matters, including wage discrimination. Our discrimination attorneys will provide you with a clear and candid evaluation of any potential claims, as well as all legal options available to you.
Protections for Employers Under The New Jersey Equal Pay Act
The New Jersey Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act (EPA), signed by Governor Phil Murphy in 2018, provides comprehensive protections for NJ employees against wage discrimination, also called pay discrimination. Under guidelines from the New Jersey Division of Civil Rights, the EPA makes it unlawful for employers to engage in discriminatory pay practices or retaliate against employees who complain about wages.
The NJ EPA’s advantage is that an employee only needs to show that they were paid less than one other employee doing similar work. In order to make a claim of wage discrimination under the NJ EPA, employees will have to show that:
- The work done by both employees was substantially similar. Responsibilities, not job titles, are what matters here; and
- They are a covered employee under the New Jersey EPA.
Who is Covered by the New Jersey Equal Pay Act?
The EPA applies to nearly all employees in New Jersey, including full-time, part-time, temporary, and seasonal workers. There is no minimum employee count necessary to qualify, and the business does not need to be based in New Jersey, as long as there are employees with a primary place of work in New Jersey. However, the EPA does not apply to federal employers, federal employees, or independent contractors.
In addition to women, the New Jersey Equal Pay Act applies to all members of the same protected classes as the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD), making it illegal to discriminate against employees based on:
- Sexual Orientation (LGBT)
- Marital Status
- National Origin
Compensation Under the New Jersey EPA
Employees who successfully make a wage discrimination claim under the New Jersey Equal Pay Act can be awarded back pay of up to six years from the date of the last unlawful pay occurrence, as well as up to another three years of back pay in additional damages.
What Employers Must Prove
Instead of requiring the employee to prove that they were paid less than their coworker due to discrimination, the EPA places the burden of proof on the employer, requiring them to show that the reason they paid one employee less than another for similar work was not discriminatory.
To prove that the employee in a protected class was not the subject of wage discrimination, the employer will have to prove:
- That the difference in pay was based on a seniority or merit system
- That the difference in pay was based on factors such as training, education, experience, or quantity or quality of work
- That these factors are reasonably applied and/or based on a business necessity
- That these factors are unrelated to gender, race, age, or any other protected class
- That these factors account for the full difference in wages
Also, any employer who enters into a contract with the State of New Jersey for qualifying services or public works must submit demographic and wage data for all employees.
Wage Discrimination Protections Under NJLAD
The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against employees that are in a protected class, as listed above. This includes discrimination in compensation, so it is possible that wage discrimination may overlap with other forms of employment discrimination under the NJLAD.
Retaliation for Wage Discrimination Claims
The New Jersey Equal Pay Act contains strong anti-retaliation provisions. Employers are not allowed to take any disciplinary actions against employees for making a complaint about wages or because they engaged in activity including:
- Requesting information about employee compensation;
- Discussing compensation with another employee or former employee; or
- Seeking advice from a lawyer regarding compensation.
Retaliation can include, but it not limited to:
- Job transfers
- Loss of benefits
- Jokes or teasing
What Should I Do If I Am the Victim of Wage Discrimination in NJ?
If you suspect that you are paid less than another employee for similar work, there are several actions you should take:
- Have a conversation with your coworker about pay. People usually don’t realize they are being paid less until another employee tells them.
- Begin documenting what you learned about other employee’s pay, how you learned it, and who you heard it from, any conversations you may have had with your employer about it, etc.
- Contact an experienced NJ employment discrimination lawyer immediately.
Everyone should be properly compensated at their place of work. If you believe you have been the victim of wage discrimination in the workplace, call our Red Bank, NJ or Marlton, NJ office or contact us online today for a free consultation. We will discuss your rights and options, which may include internal complaints or a lawsuit, and help you every step of the way in seeking justice for unlawful wage discrimination.