Despite the fact that it’s no longer unusual for a woman to be the major breadwinner in her family — or even the sole supporter — there’s still a significant gap between what women make on the job and what their male counterparts make. It’s about 20 percent — which translates into billions of dollars in earnings that women across the nation are denied.
New Jersey is aiming to change that through an amendment to its anti-discrimination laws known as the Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act. The Act took effect on July 1, 2018, and it has a significant impact on more than just women. It takes some big steps that give anyone suffering wage discrimination more rights.
Here are a few important things that employees should know about the way the law has changed:
1. Your employer cannot stop you from discussing your wages
Some employers have long had policies in place that forbid employees from discussing their salary with each other. Now, not only are employees free to discuss it, employers are forbidden from retaliation over the issue.
That means that if you think your pay may be substantially lower than other people doing the same job, you can simply ask them.
2. If a wage gap exists, your employer can’t lower anyone’s wages
Employees don’t need to be afraid to discuss their wages with their co-workers. When pay gaps are discovered, employers are required to raise the pay of the lower-earning worker. They are not permitted to lower the pay of the higher-earning worker.
This takes away the concern that employees might hide the fact that they’re earning more from lower-paid co-workers in order to protect their own income.
3. The Act doesn’t just apply to women.
While women were a big concern for the lawmakers who drafted the Act, it ultimately applies to anyone who is being paid less than a co-worker for the same work due to a discriminatory reason. That reason could be a worker’s marital status, gender, disability, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, national origin, religion or nationality.
Employees who have to take the issue to court can recover three times the damages they suffered — as far as six years back! That’s a significant penalty for any employer.
If you believe that you’re the victim of wage discrimination, an attorney can help you better understand your rights and your options for redress.