Measures Will Help Empower Employees to Fight Wage Discrimination
A Senate panel on Thursday approved a package of bills sponsored by Assembly Democrats Pamela Lampitt, Celeste Riley, Paul Moriarty, and Angel Fuentes to help bridge the gender pay equity gap and fight discrimination in the workplace, moving the bills one step closer to becoming law.
The measures (A-2647, A2648, A2649, A2650) which were approved by the full Assembly in March, would require employers to inform workers of their rights to be free of gender inequity or bias in pay; lengthen the statute of limitations for employees to take action against unlawful compensation practices; prohibit employer retaliation if an employee divulges certain job information; and require state contractors to file information on the employees they hire.
“Unfortunately, we know all too well from our hearings 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 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.
“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.”
“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.”
“While the Lily Ledbetter Act fell short of establishing true gender pay equity, it did give employees greater power to fight pay discrimination in the work place,” said Moriarty (D-Camden/Gloucester). “Until we achieve true pay parity, this is a law that we should have on our books in New Jersey as well.”
The bill package is sponsored in the Senate by Senate President Stephen Sweeney, Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg and Senator Linda Greenstein. The bills now await consideration by the full Senate before they head to the Governor’s desk.