Fuentes, Lampitt, Riley Bill to Fight Wage Discrimination Becomes Law

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Angel Fuentes, Pamela Lampitt and Celeste Riley to help fight wage discrimination has been signed into law.

The new law (A-2648) prohibits employer retaliation against any employee who discloses to any other employee, former employee, or their authorized representative, certain information such as the job title, occupational category, and rate of compensation (including benefits), or the gender, race or other characteristics of the employee or former employee if the disclosure was made for the purpose of investigating the possibility of pay or compensation discrimination.

“Putting a gag order on employees enables employers to continue discriminatory compensation practices because they can operate behind a cloak of secrecy,” said Fuentes (D-Camden/Gloucester). “Employees shouldn’t face threats for willingly sharing information about their own job, especially in the name of pay equity.”

“Unfortunately, we know all too well that 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 with knowledge of their rights and holding employers more accountable, we can chip away the remaining fragments of the glass ceiling.”

The law was originally part of a four-bill package designed to help bridge the gender pay equity gap and fight discrimination in the workplace.

“It’s almost mind boggling to think that women today still face some of the same discrimination in the workplace that they did 100 years ago,” said Riley (D-Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem). “Any woman that is as equally educated or qualified as a man should be entitled to equal compensation for the same job, plain and simple.”

The sponsors 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 legislation was originally approved last June, however Gov. Christie issued a conditional veto proposing a technical change that would remove the language of the law from the existing “Conscientious Employee Protection Act,” also known as the Whistleblower Act, and instead incorporate it into the existing “Law Against Discrimination Act,” under which workplace discrimination claims in New Jersey are traditionally brought.

The Assembly concurred with the Governor’s changes in June and the Senate granted final legislative approval last week, sending it back to the Governor who signed it today.