After overwhelming support and passage through the New Jersey Senate and Assembly, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed into law a historic and sweeping equal pay legislation that is being deemed the strongest equal pay law in America. The new law affords equal pay protections to all minorities and protected classes, not just women.
Although New Jersey already has a law prohibiting discrimination in pay based on sex under N.J.S.A. 34:11-56.2, the new Equal Pay Act goes even further and extends to equal pay protections to all protected classifications of sex, race/ color, national origin/ancestry, religion/creed, disability, age, pregnancy, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, N.J.S.A. 10:5-12(a). The Equal Pay Act also has a six (6) year statute of limitations, where LAD only has a two (2) year statute of limitations. Under the new law a discriminatory compensation decision or other employment practice that is unlawful under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD) occurs each time that compensation is paid in furtherance of that discriminatory decision or practice – effectively making each paycheck another instance of discrimination.
When the Equal Pay Act takes effect on July 1, 2018, it will be an unlawful employment practice for employers to pay less in wages, benefits, or compensation to members of a protected class for “substantially similar work, when viewed as a composite of skill, effort and responsibility” as those not in a protected class. In other words, if an employer pays one employee more than another who falls under a protected classification, the employer will have to show permissible exceptions for the pay disparities. Such exceptions include a seniority system, a merit system or a bona fide factor other than the characteristics of the members of the protected class. “Bona fide factors” can include training, education, experience, performance, productivity, and skill sets.