New Jersey will soon be one of the first states to have an equal pay law that extends beyond gender to all classes of employees that are protected under the state’s antidiscrimination law. Governor Murphy is about to sign the Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act, which makes it unlawful for an employer to compensate employees of a protected class less than employees that are not in that class for “substantially similar” work in terms of skill, effort, and responsibility. It will also be a violation of the law for an employer to retaliate against an employee for requesting, discussing with, or disclosing to another employee or his/her lawyer or any government agency, information related to employee compensation. Also, the law prohibits a NJ employer from requiring an employee, as a condition of employment, to sign a waiver or to agree not to make these types of requests or disclosures. The law applies to both public and private employers in NJ.

Q: What is a “protected class” in New Jersey?

A: The list of protected categories in New Jersey is long and broad. Under NJ’s Law Against Discrimination, employers are prohibited from discriminating against an individual on the basis of any of the following: race, creed, color, national origin, nationality, ancestry, age, marital status, civil union status, domestic partnership status, affectional or sexual orientation, genetic information, pregnancy, breastfeeding, sex, gender identity or expression, disability or atypical hereditary cellular or blood trait of any individual, or liability for service in the armed forces.

As we get closer to the date the Equal Pay Act takes effect, July 1, 2018, employers should identify any problematic pay disparities and, if found, take steps to remedy any differences that could be attributed to membership in a protected class.

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