Although it is presently illegal under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (the “LAD”) to pay people different wages for performing the same work under similar working conditions because of their gender, there is currently pending in both the State Senate and Assembly legislation “concerning equal pay for women and employment discrimination, requiring public contractors to report certain employment information.”
Implications for All Employers: As proposed, the new legislation will make it an illegal act of discrimination to pay any employee at a rate of pay, including benefits, which is less that the rate paid by the employer to employees of the other sex for substantially similar work, when viewed as a composite of skill, effort and responsibility. Unlike prior legislation in this area, the proposed legislation codifies five circumstances justifying a pay differential between the sexes, but the employer bears the burden to prove that any of those circumstances exist. In so doing, the bill materially changes the legal standard for establishing wage discrimination.
The proposed legislation also adopts recent New Jersey Supreme Court jurisprudence by specifying that an unlawful employment act occurs each time an individual is adversely affected by a discriminatory compensation practice and paid less because of their sex. Contrary to the federal Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and current New Jersey law, however, the new legislation does not limit the amount of back pay the aggrieved employee can receive for violations that occur within the applicable statute of limitations period. Rather, under the new bill there is no statute of limitation, and an aggrieved employee can collect back wages retroactive to the date that discriminatory compensation first occurred, so long as the violation continues into the applicable two year statute of limitation of the LAD. Moreover, the proposed legislation prohibits employers from requiring individuals to agree to a shortened statute of limitation as a condition of employment.