An Assembly panel on Monday approved a two-bill package sponsored by Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt to help bridge the gender pay equity gap and fight discrimination in the workplace.
“Unfortunately, gender wage discrimination is alive and well in the 21st century,” said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington), Chair of the Assembly Women and Children Committee. “Hopefully by empowering employees and holding employers more accountable, we can chip away the remaining fragments of the glass ceiling.”
Lampitt noted that, according to 2009 U.S. Census Bureau data, women still earn roughly 77 cents for every dollar their male counterparts earn, with the gender income gap highest in higher paying occupations. Furthermore, minority women fare significantly worse with median earnings for African American and Hispanic women working full-time, year-round far less compared to their white, non-Hispanic male counterparts.
The first bill (A-4044), known as the “Wage Transparency Act,” would require any employer who contracts with the state to provide qualifying services that are not subject to prevailing wage requirements to report to the Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development information regarding the gender, race, job title, occupational category, and total compensation of every employee they employ in the state in connection with the contracts.
“The bottom line is this: New Jerseyans should have a right to know that their tax dollars are not going to firms that engage in discriminatory wage practices against women,” added Lampitt.
The commissioner would be required to retain the information and make it available to the Division of Civil Rights in the Department of Law and Public Safety and, upon request, provide it to anyone employed by the employer during the contract period, or any authorized representative of the employee.
The bill also requires that any employer who enters into a contract to perform public work subject to prevailing wage requirements shall meet the reporting requirements of the bill by including the gender and race information, in addition to the job title, occupational category, and rate of total compensation information currently required, in the certified payroll records under the prevailing wage act.
The second bill (A-4124), known as the “Unfair Wage Recovery Act” would help employees fight pay discrimination. The bill mirrors language in the federal “Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009,” which clarified, under various federal anti-discrimination laws, that an unlawful discriminatory compensation decision occurs each time wages, benefits, or other compensation are paid to an individual.
Essentially, the bill would “restart” the applicable statute of limitations governing discriminatory compensation claims under the “Law Against Discrimination,” effectively making each paycheck another instance of the discriminatory compensation decision or other practice and therefore a new or continuing violation. Under current law, the statute of limitations is two years.
“While the Lily Ledbetter Act did give employees greater power to fight pay discrimination it still fell short of establishing true gender pay equity,” added Lampitt. “Until we achieve true pay parity, this is a law that we should have on our books in New Jersey as well.”
The bills were approved by the Assembly Women and Children Committee and now await consideration by the full Assembly.