New Jersey’s new Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act is set to be one of the strongest equal pay regulations in the country when it goes into effect on July 1 this summer.
Legislation has existed for over 50 years, however, to try to close the wage gap between men and women, which persists today as a woman earns about 80 cents on a man’s dollar. The Equal Pay Act of 1963 prohibits employers from paying men and women differently who perform substantially similar jobs—not simply in title, but in content of the work.
Just as the New Jersey law does, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, and Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 all prohibit pay discrimination not only due to sex but also race, color, religion, national origin, or disability, and the New Jersey law goes even further with more classifications protected.
A notable wage discrimination case of late is that of long-serving, experienced female law professor Lucy Marsh, who found herself as the lowest-paid faculty member at University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law. She filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Committee (EEOC), which ultimately led to a $2.6 million settlement with the university for herself and 6 other women.
While their payout was hefty, when put in the context of how much less women make on the whole compared to men, it begins to make sense: the wage gap results in women making $799 billion less than men per year, according to the Washington Center for Equitable Growth.
The professor’s lawsuit was no small feat. “Years of litigation” after the original complaint was filed, the Associated Press reported, was what led to the large sum payout.
If you think you might be experiencing compensation discrimination, there are multiple avenues available for recourse in New Jersey. One is to take the route which Lucy Marsh chose and go to the EEOC, or you can take the matter directly to court.
Unlike with other types of discrimination, the EEOC does not require you to file a “charge of discrimination” before you are able to take the matter to court. You can directly take the matter to court without filing a charge if you believe your rights have been violated under the Equal Pay Act. The EEOC provides a 2-year window to file a lawsuit since “the time of the unlawful compensation practice,” or your “last discriminatory paycheck,” and a 3-year window in the case of a “willful violations,” or intentional or willfully ignorant violations. One example of a willful violation that the EEOC shows is when an employer ignores an employee complaining about their wage disparity.
The EEOC lays out their process for filing a report on their website. If you wish to file a charge of discrimination, you must report the incident within two years after it happens and three years in the case of a “willful violation.” If you do choose to go this route, you must remember that your time to go to court is not extended.
The general process for filing a report and ultimately a charge of discrimination with the EEOC is as follows:
- File an inquiry in their online portal.
- Schedule an interview with a staff member at your regional EEOC office, which can be done online.
- At the interview, discuss your concerns with the EEOC staff member who will advise you on what they think the best course of action is.
- If you wish to move forward filing a complaint after speaking with the EEOC, sign a Charge of Discrimination, which is a statement signed by you indicating that a place of employment discriminated against you. It formally requests the EEOC to intervene to remedy the situation.
- Within 10 days of the charge’s filing, your employer will be notified of it by the EEOC, and the EEOC will decide which actions to take next based on whether or not they find a possible violation of the law.
The EEOC may choose to dismiss your charge if they find no violation. If they do find a violation, there are several steps that will be taken before the EEOC decides to file suit against your employer.
They may try to mediate a settlement between you and your employer, but if that is not determined to be the best solution, they will investigate your claim further, asking for documents from your employer and possibly discovering more instances of discrimination which you could add to your charge. If they find a possible violation of law, they will try to settle the case with your employer. If that effort is unsuccessful, the EEOC or Department of Justice may decide to file a lawsuit. If they choose not to, you may still file a lawsuit as long as the last time you received a discriminatory paycheck was at most two years ago, or three in the case of a willful violation.
New Jersey also offers the route of filing with the state’s Division on Civil Rights. Complaints must be lodged directly to the regional office, and cannot be done by email or by phone. The complaint must be filed within 180 days after the incident.
It can be a daunting task to try to figure out if your employer is not paying you the same as your male colleagues. You are allowed to ask your colleagues about their salaries to do so, and you cannot face repercussions for asking.
One way in which compensation discrimination can manifest is the unequal distribution of benefits based on sex. An employer cannot provide benefits to an employee’s wife, but not to an employee’s husband. In addition, as Workplace Fairness states on its website, employers cannot have a policy which “establishes different optional or compulsory retirement It is also against the law for an employer to have a pension or retirement plan which ages based on sex, or which differentiates in benefits on the basis of sex.”
New Jersey’s New Equal Pay Law:
How to File Charge of Discrimination:
EEOC Facts on Equal Pay:
Workplace Fairness FAQs:
New Jersey Division on Civil Rights:
Equitable Growth Factsheet:
Portal to File an Inquiry with the EEOC:
EEOC Process of Filing a Charge:
New Jersey Diane B. Allen Act:
Compensation Discrimination Document from EEOC: