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Is the Equal Pay Mandate Unfriendly to Businesses?


Apparently, some state governments think so. Just recently, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, vetoed proposed state legislation that would prohibit pay discrimination based on gender. This was his second time vetoing the bill which, the governor believes goes too far beyond the federal requirements of the Equal Pay Act. In his opinion, the state law would make New Jersey "very business unfriendly." So, what does that mean exactly?

New Jersey's Proposed Equal Pay Bill

The New Jersey Senate Bill No. 992 at issue is being rejected by Governor Christie for several reasons. Overall, the proposed legislation would have expanded the gender-pay discrimination provisions of the current New Jersey Law Against Discrimination ("NJLAD"), calling for more extensive liability for employers. For example, like the Lily Ledbetter Act, the new legislation would "restart" the statute of limitations each time wages are paid to the employee. However, unlike the Lily Ledbetter Act, there would be no limitation on the amount of back pay that could be recovered. Another change would be to shift the burden of proof in justifying pay differentials to employers, requiring that they only be made pursuant to a seniority system, a merit system, or based on legitimate, bona fide factors other than sex.

The Governor's stand on equal pay protections

Gov. Christie has stated that the proposed legislation would "materially change the legal standard for establishing wage discrimination" in the state, and noted that it would cause New Jersey to be seen as more liberal in terms of available recovery for pay discrimination. Ultimately, Gov. Christie maintains his view that the law would make New Jersey "very business unfriendly." The Legislature now has to decide whether to modify the bill to remove the provisions to which the governor objected or to override his veto.

State laws regarding Equal Pay

In comparison to equal pay bills in other states, the proposed New Jersey bill goes a bit further than New York's new law. However, it is substantially similar to the California Pay Act adopted in 2015. In fact, the New Jersey bill was modeled after the California legislation. In Alabama, anti-discrimination law is based primarily on federal statutes. If you visit Alabama's official website you will see the following statement:

The State of Alabama does not have any termination laws. Federal law covers such things as discrimination based upon age, race, religion, sex, national origin, and disabilities and is handled by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Alabama is not alone. Mississippi does not have any anti-discrimination state laws, either. Most other states have some form of equal pay law on the books.

The Equal Pay Act provisions

The Equal Pay Act requires employers to pay men and women the same for performing the same work. Though the Act was intended to protect both women and men from discriminatory pay, the main purpose was to help resolve the wage disparity experienced overwhelmingly by women.

If you feel you have been the victim of discrimination, or if you have any questions regarding your employment rights, please contact Michel | King , either online or by calling us at (205) 265-1880.

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