PRO WORKER BILLS APPROVED BY THE NEW JERSEY ASSEMBLY LABOR COMMITTEE

In furtherance of its continuing effort to protect and promote fair wages for workers, the New Jersey Assembly Labor Committee recently approved two bills which would have that effect. The first bill A1094 was sponsored by Assemblypersons sponsored by Joann Downey, Pamela R. Lampitt, Gary S. Schaer, Eric Houghtaling, Daniel R. Benson and Wayne P. DeAngelo, seeks to minimize the wage gap between men and women in New Jersey by strengthening protections against employment discrimination and prohibiting any employer from: a)  screening a job applicant based on the applicant’s wage or salary history; or b) requiring that the applicant’s salary history satisfy any minimum or maximum criteria. The New Jersey Senate’s companion bill, S5559, passed the upper chamber in March 2018.

Under the bill, an employer still may consider salary history in determining salary, benefits and other compensation for the applicant.  Although the employer may also verify an applicant’s salary history, it may do so only if the applicant voluntarily and without coercion provides the employer with that history. Put differently, it will be unlawful for an employer to consider an applicant’s refusal to volunteer salary history information when making an employment decision.

“In an ideal world, your gender would not influence how much you earn at work. But that’s not the world we live in,” said Downey (D-Monmouth). “This provides a means of narrowing the wage gap by making it less likely for employers to unintentionally perpetuate the gap by basing salary offers for new hires on their previous salary, which has a disproportionate impact on female hires.”

“Though equal pay was made law in New Jersey earlier this year, these pieces of legislation will take further steps towards leveling what was an unacceptably skewed playing field,” said Lampitt (D-Camden, Burlington). “Salary offers to new hires based primarily on their previous salaries only perpetuate the wage gap in our workforce. Working women deserve better.”

“This is about equity and fairness,” said Schaer (D-Bergen, Passaic). “Under the protections imposed by this bill, employers would have to make their salary decisions based on what an applicant’s worth is to the company, rather than on what he or she made in a previous position.”

“The gender wage gap puts women at a disadvantage before they even enter the workforce,” said Houghtaling (D-Monmouth). “These provisions can help put an end to this injustice by ensuring that salaries for new hires are not based on a system that is inherently biased against women.”

“A woman working full time, year-round earns $10,800 less per year than a man, based on median annual earnings. This disparity can add up to nearly a half million dollars over a career, and have immediate, as well as lasting, effects” said Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex). “There is no question that women should be fairly compensated. This can help us continue to bridge the gap.”

“This bill will reinforce and strengthen the groundbreaking equal pay law signed in 2018,” said DeAngelo (D-Mercer, Middlesex). “We must continue to fight to level the playing field in order to ensure fairness and equity in the workplace and to protect the rights of all workers.”

 

Similar legislation intended to promote pay equity is being considered by 20 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. New York City, Massachusetts, and Philadelphia have all passed laws prohibiting employers from asking about salary history.  It has been reported that A1094 is expected to receive final legislative approval along a party line vote and will be signed into law by New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy. This measure failed final enactment during the previous legislature when then Gov. Chris Christie vetoed it.

A second measure A3413, sponsored by Assemblyman Gordon M. Johnson, requires all employers, public and private, to provide each employee with a statement of earnings which shall include information regarding the employee’s wage calculation.  “Receiving this type of information will give employees the ability to determine if their wages are being properly calculated,” said Johnson (D-Bergen). “This will increase employer accountability and protect employees from intentional or inadvertent wage calculation errors. This is a pro-worker, pro-middle-class bill.”

Current law requires private employers to furnish each employee with a statement of all deductions made from the employee’s wages for each pay period in which deductions were made. This bill expands that obligation by requiring that all public and private employers provide employees with a statement of earnings for each pay period to include, in addition to any deductions made, the employee’s gross and net earnings, rate of pay, and the number of hours worked by the employee during the pay period if it is relevant to his wage calculation.

 

The attorneys at Mashel Law are experienced in handling wage and hour claims. If you believe you are owed unpaid wages, then call the attorneys at Mashel Law (732) 536-6161 or fill out the contact form on this page for immediate help. Mashel Law, located in Morganville, New Jersey, is dedicated to protecting the rights of employees.