Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Joann Downey, Pamela Lampitt, Gary Schaer, Eric Houghtaling, Dan Benson, Troy Singleton, Elizabeth Maher Muoio and Wayne DeAngelo to promote equal pay for women was advanced by a Senate panel on Thursday.
Currently, in the United States, women earn approximately 21 percent less than men. In 2015, female full-time workers made only 80 cents for every dollar earned by men, a gender wage gap of 20 percent. The gap between men’s and women’s wages remains even when taking into account factors such as career choice, experience and education. One study found that a decade after graduation, women earned 12 percent less than men after accounting for all other factors that could affect pay.
“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.”
“This would help level what remains an unacceptably skewed playing field,” said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington). “If women are currently paid about 20 percent lower than men doing comparable work, on average, then 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 bill (A-3480/4119) amends the Law Against Discrimination to strengthen protections against employment discrimination and thereby promote equal pay for women by prohibiting any employer from:
- Screening a job applicant based on the applicant’s wage or salary history, including by requiring the applicant’s prior wages, salaries or benefits satisfy any minimum or maximum criteria, or relying on the applicant’s salary in determining a salary amount for the applicant at any stage in the hiring process, including finalizing the employment contract;
- Inquiring, in writing or otherwise, about the salary history of a job applicant, including, but not limited to, the applicant’s compensation and benefits, except that the employer may seek the history if the prospective employee voluntarily, without employer coercion, provides the employer with a written authorization; and
- Taking reprisals against any employee for disclosing to any other employee or former employee of the employer information regarding the job title, occupational category, rate of compensation, the gender, race, ethnicity, military status, or national origin of the employee or any other employee or former employee of the employer.
“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 get closer to bridging the gap.”
“The impact of wage disparities between men and women is pervasive, even following women into retirement,” said Singleton (D-Burlington). “Because women typically are paid less than men during working years, when women retire, they receive less income from Social Security, pensions and other sources than retired men because these benefits usually are based on earnings.”
“The gender pay gap doesn’t just affect women; it affects their families,” said Muoio (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “Today, 40 percent of mothers with children under the age of 18 are their families’ primary or sole breadwinners. A 20 percent wage gap for those women means 20 percent less money to provide for the other members of those households.”
“Women earn approximately 21 percent less than men. The disparity is even greater for African-American women and Latinas. Women have made great strides in the workforce. That this imparity still exists is disgraceful,” said DeAngelo (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “We owe it to our daughters to do better. This is one step toward a more just workplace for working women.”
The bill would take effect immediately.
The bill, which the Assembly approved 49-19-7 in May, was advanced by the Senate Labor Committee and now awaits further consideration in the Senate.