A two-bill package sponsored by Assembly Democrats Pamela R. Lampitt, Gabriela Mosquera, Gordon Johnson, Bonnie Watson Coleman and Carmelo Garcia to help bridge the gender wage gap and fight discrimination in the workplace received final legislative approval by the General Assembly on Monday.
“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 at the remaining fragments of the glass ceiling.”
The first bill (S-1038/A-2345), approved by a vote of 47-31, would require employers contracting with the state to disclose demographic and other information about each employee, such as his or her gender, race, job title and total compensation. Upon request, the Division on Civil Rights in the Department of Law and Public Safety would be required to grant an employee access to the information. The bill, sponsored by Lampitt, Mosquera, Johnson and Watson Coleman, is known as the Wage Transparency Act.
“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,” said Lampitt.
“New Jersey prides itself on being an equal opportunity employer,” said Mosquera (D-Camden/Gloucester). “While we can’t regulate private corporations, we can – and, rightfully so, will – regulate contractors doing business with the state.”
“Transparency is the best way to fight discrimination,” said Johnson (D-Bergen). “Employees have little way of defending themselves against discrimination – whether it is based on gender, race or age – unless they know what their counterparts are making.”
“It’s unbelievable that we’re still fighting the same wage discrimination battles our mothers and grandmothers did years ago,” said Watson Coleman (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “Any woman who is as qualified as a man should be entitled to equal compensation for the same job, plain and simple. This bill will further empower New Jersey’s women to fight for that ideal.”
The second bill (S-783/A-2349), approved by a vote of 49-26-3, would help employees fight pay discrimination. The legislation mirrors the federal Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, which clarified that unlawful discrimination occurs each time wages, benefits or other forms of compensation are paid to an employee, effectively making each paycheck issued for less than the full amount due another instance of discrimination. The bill is sponsored by Lampitt, Mosquera, Watson Coleman and Garcia and known as the Unfair Wage Recovery Act.
“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.”
“Over time, repeated wage discrimination – at times unbeknownst the employee – can have a considerable impact,” said Mosquera. “If employers are found to be blatantly discriminatory in this regard, they should be held accountable for the entirety of these lost wages.”
“Pay equity is about the ability of New Jersey’s residents to support their families,” said Watson Coleman. “And when they can do that, it makes our entire state stronger.”
“This bill embodies the sense of justice that is fundamental to New Jersey’s value system,” said Garcia (D-Hudson). “All working people have a right to fair pay for hard work – and the means to stand up for themselves when that right has been violated.”
The two bills now head to the Governor’s desk for consideration.