New Jersey Legislature Passes Far-Reaching Equal Pay Law

On March 26, 2018, both houses of the New Jersey Legislature passed the “Diana B. Allen Equal Pay Act,” adding new equal pay protections to the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD) for all protected classes under the LAD, not just gender. The new law would make it illegal for an employer to pay a worker, on the basis of a protected characteristic under the LAD, at a lower rate, including benefits, for performing “substantially similar” work. Protected characteristics under the LAD include race, creed, color, national origin, nationality, ancestry, age, marital status, civil union status, domestic partnership status, affectional or sexual orientation, genetic information, pregnancy or breastfeeding, sex, gender identity or expression, and disability. Under the law, an employer would have to justify a pay disparity by showing legitimate reasons for the difference in pay, such as the use of a seniority or merit system, or another legitimate factor, like experience or education. This law would be one of the broadest equal pay laws in the nation. New York’s and California’s equal pay laws extend only to race and gender, and Oregon’s extends to gender, race, national origin or color and also on religion, sexual orientation, marital status, veteran status, disability, and age. The State Senate voted unanimously, 35-0 to pass the bill. The State Assembly voted 74-2 , with Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll (R - Morris) and Assemblyman Jay Webber (R – Morris), voting no. Governor Murphy, who recently signed an Executive Order promoting equal pay in state agencies, is expected to sign the bill as soon as it comes to his desk.