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New Jersey Governor closes state gender pay gap

Published on April 27th, 2018 by Triton Benefits & HR Solutions

Data from the U.S. Census Bureau underlines a struggle that women all over the country have felt for decades – female employees earn, on average, 80.5 cents for every dollar that their male counterparts make. What's more, the Institute for Women's Policy Research forecasted that full payment equality between the sexes will not be reached until 2059.

Recently, considerable progress was made in New Jersey, when Governor Phil Murphy signed  sweeping equal pay legislation, fulfilling a promise he made earlier that same month.

A pledge to bridge the gap

Equal pay had been a main talking point throughout Gov. Phil Murphy's political career, but one of his biggest actions taken in these regards began on April 10 – recognized as Equal Pay Day. Gov. Murphy used his Twitter account to announce his intentions, and make a promise to the women of New Jersey:

"There is no reason a woman in New Jersey should earn just 82 cents to the dollar made by a male for the same work," the Governor tweeted. "That's why, two weeks from now on April 24th, I will sign into law the most sweeping equal pay legislation in America to close the gender wage gap."

He ended the tweet with "#EqualPayDay." And while this was certainly a bold pledge to make, Gov. Murphy did make good on his promise.

Legislation signed into law

Just as he stated in his tweet, on April 24th, Gov. Murphy signed into law The Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act, which aims to prevent employment discrimination and ensure equal pay for individuals across the state. The law is named for former State Senator Diane Allen, who, according to an official press release from Murphy's office, was herself a victim of gender bias. 

"The legislation supports equal pay and benefits for women, as well as all individuals."

The Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act puts several new standards into place, extending the protections for groups under the state's Law Against Discrimination. Under LAD, it's prohibited for an employer to discriminate against a worker included in a protected class. Now, employers are also prohibited from paying members of a protected class less than other employees for similar work. This also includes employer-provided benefits. In this way, the legislation supports equal pay and benefits for women, as well as all individuals despite their race, national origin, age, ancestry, gender identity, disability, military service, sexual orientation or family status. 

What's more, this bill also prevents employers from retaliating against employees who discuss their pay rates. Any violation of this rule would include payment of monetary damages three times the amount of the employee's pay, the ability to obtain relief for up to six years of back pay, and it enables the count to award treble damages.

"From our first day in Trenton, we acted swiftly to support equal pay for women in the workplace and begin closing the gender wage gap," Gov. Murphy stated in the press release. "Today, we are sending a beacon far and wide to women across the Garden State and in America – the only factors to determine a worker's wages should be intelligence, experience and capacity to do the job. Pay equity will help us in building a stronger, fairer New Jersey."

Game pieces on stacks of coins, with one game piece on a higher stack than the rest to illustrate unequal pay. New Jersey's new law makes it prohibited for companies to provide unequal compensation for similar work.

What this means for NJ HR teams

Pay equality is an important issue for workers and employers across the board, but is an especially pressing concern for human resources teams. This legislation means that HR leaders in companies headquartered or with operations in the state must ensure that pay rates as well as benefits are equal for every employee working within similar roles, including particular those that are included as members of a protected class.

To find out more about how this new legislation will impact HR processes, connect with the experts at Triton today.