The Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act takes effect on July 1, 2018, giving New Jersey one of the strongest equal pay laws in the country and permitting plaintiffs in employment discrimination cases to recover substantial damages.
The Act is not limited to gender, but protects all employees from pay discrimination based on that individual’s race, creed, color, national origin, nationality, ancestry, age, marital status, civil union status, domestic partnership status, affectional or sexual orientation, genetic information, pregnancy, sex, gender identity or expression, disability or atypical hereditary cellular or blood trait of any individual, or liability for service in the armed forces.
Under the Act, it is unlawful for an employer to compensate a member of the protected class less in pay or benefits than it does employees who are not members of the protected class that perform “substantially similar work, when viewed as a composite of skill, effort and responsibility.” This standard—requiring equal pay for “substantially similar work”—is considerably more lenient than the federal Equal Pay Act, which requires equal pay for employees performing jobs of “equal skill, effort, and responsibility.”
In addition, the Act:
- Prohibits employers from reducing the compensation of an aggrieved individual’s comparators in order to achieve equal pay.
- Makes it unlawful for an employer to retaliate against an employee who contacts an employment attorney, seeks legal advice, or shares relevant information with legal counsel or a governmental entity.
- Prohibits employers from requiring employees to waive their rights under the Act or consent to a shorter statute of limitations as a condition of employment.
The damages permitted under the Act are substantial: Employees alleging pay discrimination are entitled to recover up to six years of lost wages. Each discriminatory paycheck received by an employee constitutes a violation of the Act for statute of limitations purposes.