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Measures Would Help Close the Pay Gap for Women, Minorities

TRENTON – Two bills sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg that would help close the pay gap for women and minorities – the “Wage Transparency Act” and the “Unfair Wage Recovery Act” – were approved today by the Senate.

“We know that discrimination in the workplace continues to be a barrier for women who are paid less for the same work,” said Senator Weinberg. “Unfortunately, the progress made in closing the wage gap in the 1980’s and 90’s has stalled. More has to be done to bring equality to the workplace, and giving women an effective process for recourse when they have been discriminated against will help to eliminate the unfair practices that still exist.”

A 2013 study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research of data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics documents the disparities.

The gender pay gap closed by more than 10 percent from 1981 to 1990 and by four percent from 1991 to 2000 but the progress stalled since then with no change, according to the study. Women’s median annual earnings in 2012 were $37,791 compared with $49,398 for men. In addition, women now make 77 cents for every dollar earned by men.

For women who are racial or ethnic minorities the disparity is even greater.

The Unfair Wage Recovery Act, S-783, would apply provisions of the federal “Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act,” which became law in 2009, that would give women who suffered wage discrimination for extended time the ability to be protected by the state discrimination law. Many women have been denied the right to be compensated for unequal pay because the statute of limitations cut off their legal claims even though they were unaware of the discriminatory pay. The bill would “restart” the statute of limitations every time they receive a paycheck that violates discriminatory pay practices.

The Wage Transparency bill, S-1038, would require public contractors to report salary and wage information by gender, race and job title, a disclosure process that would expose disparities, Senator Weinberg said.

“If we are serious about ending wage discrimination, we have to expose the inequities in pay, benefits and other forms of compensation, and provide the means to make it right,” said Senator Weinberg. “This bill will allow those who believe they are being treated unfairly to access employer wage information and to get their fair share.”

The measure would require all employers that contract with the state to submit the information to the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development, which would be required to make the information available to the Division of Civil Rights.