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N.J.: Legislature Passes Unfair Wage Recovery Act

By Diane Cadrain  7/10/2014
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Senate Bill (S) 783, the Unfair Wage Recovery Act, which states that an unlawful employment practice occurs each time the individual is affected, has cleared both chambers of the New Jersey legislature and is on its way to Gov. Chris Christie. For example, compensation unlawfully based on a racial or sexual disparity would constitute a separate act of discrimination each time a paycheck is issued.

The proposal is based on the federal Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, enacted in the wake of a decision of the U.S. Supreme Court, which held that that the statute of limitations for an equal-pay claim begins on the date that the employer makes the initial discriminatory wage decision, not at the date of the most recent paycheck. The Ledbetter Act states that the 180-day statute of limitations for filing an equal-pay lawsuit regarding pay discrimination resets with each new paycheck affected by that discriminatory action.

The legislature has also passed several other proposals.

S. 1440 would bar employment discrimination based on an applicant’s employment status.

“Often the stigma of being unemployed can have a greater impact on whether or not someone gets an interview or a job offer than the person’s qualifications or experience,” Sen. Peter Barnes, D-Middlesex told the news source PolitickerNJ. “Unfortunately, employers assume that a long break in employment is a reflection of the candidate’s inability to effectively do the work rather than a byproduct of a bad economy. We must ensure that employers look at the individual, their skills and training and their overall fit for the position when making hiring decisions, helping all applicants with equal footing in the job market.”

The bill would nevertheless allow employers to ask about the circumstances surrounding someone’s separation from their previous job, or to consider a person’s credentials, licensing status, or experience.

S1038, the Wage Transparency Act, would require public contractors to report employment information to the state, broken down by   gender, race and job title.

“Transparency is the best way to fight discrimination,” Assemblyman Gordon Johnson, D-Englewood, said. “Employees have little way of defending themselves against discrimination – whether it is based on gender, race or age – unless they know what their counterparts are making.”

Diane Cadrain is an attorney who has been writing about employment law issues for more than 20 years.
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