Would Make NJ a National Leader in Fight Against Wage Discrimination
TRENTON – Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, Senate President Steve Sweeney and Senator Sandra Bolden Cunningham today called on the governor to sign legislation they are sponsoring that would help close the gender wage gap in the state. The senators’ call comes on ‘Equal Pay Day,’ the date on the calendar that marks the amount of extra time the average woman needs to work to match the earnings of the average man from the previous year.
“It is unconscionable that it takes more than 15 months for a woman to ‘catch up’ to a man’s annual earnings,” said Senator Weinberg (D-Bergen). “In New Jersey, the wage disparity will cost women hundreds of thousands of dollars over their careers. This not only harms women – it harms families. We passed legislation with bipartisan support to combat wage discrimination and to help close the wage gap. We are calling on the governor to stand up for the women of this state who continue to be subjected to unfair labor practices, and sign the bill into law.”
“It is unacceptable that women continue to make less than men for the same work. We put a strong pay equity bill on the governor’s desk that will make New Jersey a national leader in the fight against wage discrimination. It will help ensure that women are treated fairly and equitably, and in doing so will help families get ahead,” said Senator Sweeney. “The governor must act quickly to enact this legislation.”
“Our goal must be to ensure that workers are treated equally, no matter their gender, race, ethnicity, religion or background and this legislation will help take our state in the right direction, toward fairness for women,” said Senator Cunningham (D-Hudson). “A woman should not have to work 15 months in order to make the same amount as a man, for the same type of work. This is unfair treatment that has to stop. The governor has a chance with this bill to do what’s right for the next generation and for all of the women working across the state.”
In 2016, women in the United States make 79 cents for every dollar a man makes. In New Jersey, on average, women make 80.4 cents for each dollar a man makes, according to information from the National Women’s Law Center. The wage gap is much greater for women of color and research shows that the disparity in wages has a significant long-term impact on the earnings of women of all backgrounds.
In New Jersey, the amount today’s wage gap would cost a woman over a 40-year career, known as the “lifetime wage gap,” is $477,080. Compared to a white man, over a 40-year career, it would cost an African American woman $1.2 million, a Latina $1.7 million, an Asian American woman $416,560, and a Native American woman $1.2 million, according to research from the National Women’s Law Center. If wages continue to change at the current pace, women in New Jersey will not see equal pay until the year 2055, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research reported.
The senators’ legislation (S992) would make changes to New Jersey’s laws to combat pay discrimination by creating greater transparency surrounding compensation and greater protections for employees. It would prohibit unequal pay for “substantially similar” work, and would require an employer to demonstrate a different rate of compensation is the result of specific factors, such as training and education. It would restart the statute of limitations each time a paycheck is issued in furtherance of discrimination, reflecting language in the federal Lilly Ledbetter Act; however, it would allow back pay for the entire period of time in which the violation is continuous, if it continues to occur within the statute of limitations, a provision that is stronger than the federal law’s two-year cap.
The bill was approved with bipartisan support in both houses and sent to the governor’s desk in March.