When it comes to workplace discrimination, your rights often depend on the state where you work. That’s because states can pass laws that offer even stronger protections for employees than federal law. Last year, New Jersey did just that when it passed what may be the broadest pay equity law in the nation, the Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act. Here are key protections New Jersey workers now have:
Who Is Protected: While there are many laws that prohibit pay discrimination based on gender, the Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act does not just protect women. It prohibits employers from underpaying employees based on a whole host of characteristics beyond gender, including race and color, national origin and nationality, sexual orientation and gender identity, religion, age, and marital status.
What Is Prohibited: Many laws insist that employers provide equal pay for “equal work,” but this can be a high bar for employees; in many workplaces every employee does something that is at least somewhat different from everyone else. The Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act recognizes this and requires equal pay not just for work that is identical but also for work that is “substantially similar.” So, if you are being paid less than someone else for work that is substantially similar to yours, taking into account your skills, effort and responsibility, you may be able to assert a pay discrimination claim.
Greater Transparency: Pay discrimination can go unchecked when employees do not know what their colleagues are earning. The new law helps employees get the information they need to challenge pay discrimination. Under the Diane B. Allan Equal Pay Act, employers cannot require employees to refrain from requesting or disclosing compensation information, and employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who request or discuss information about the employer’s compensation practices.
More Time to Recover: Many laws give employees short amounts of time to bring discrimination claims, in some places as little as 180 days. That can be unrealistic for an employee who is still working up the courage to bring a discrimination claim, especially if you are still working for the company that has discriminated against you. The Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act makes a big difference by allowing workers to recover up to six years of back pay damages.
Larger Damages: Victims of pay discrimination in New Jersey can be entitled to recover damages even beyond the amount they were underpaid. The Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act mandates that if a jury finds that there has been unlawful pay discrimination, the victims get awarded triple the amount they were underpaid. In addition, victims of pay discrimination can recover their attorneys’ fees and costs as well as punitive damages if they prove their employer’s conduct was willful.
Thanks to the Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act, New Jersey is now at the forefront of the fight against pay discrimination. If you live in New Jersey and think you have been the victim of pay discrimination, you should consult with an experienced employment discrimination attorney.