Governor Murphy signed New Jersey’s Equal Pay Act into law in 2018. The NJEPA takes a necessary step in making pay discrepancies in the workplace more transparent with the hopes that this will address the pay differential between white men minorities, and women. Essentially, it bars any penalty to any employee for requesting or disclosing information regarding any employee’s job title, rate of compensation, benefits, race, gender, ethnicity, or other protected characteristic when the purpose of the inquiry or disclosure to investigate the possibility of discriminatory treatment. (While the NJEPA was originally intended to address inequitable pay for women, it was expanded to cover all protected classes of people.)
This allows for employees to obtain information which previously (and even now) is largely safeguarded by employers as “private” in order to determine whether they are being discriminated against based upon a protected classification. Any employer “policy” which forbids discussing compensation in the workplace could be considered void by the law.
The NJEPA amended New Jersey’s Laws Against Discrimination to enable the use of the protections of that statute. The NJEPA also specifically makes it unlawful to pay employees in protected classes a different rate of compensation when performing substantially similar work considering skill, effort, and responsibilities. Differentials may still exist when based on seniority, merit, education, productivity, experience, and other legitimate business reasons. The Act also allows expands upon the LAD’s typical 2-year statute of limitations by setting forth that limitation period restarts each time the employee receives unequal compensation resulting from a discriminatory decision or practice. The employee may also recover up to 6 years of back pay as a result of a violation by the employer. Additionally, the employee may receive treble damages – meaning that they may recover three times the monetary damages awarded as a result of the pay discrepancy.