This summer could represent a big moment in the fight to close the wage gap in New Jersey. Two bills aimed at addressing pay discrimination recently cleared both of the houses of the state’s legislature — the Unfair Wage Recovery Act and the Wage Transparency Act. But Governor Christie has previously vetoed both these key pieces of legislation, and so the question is — will he stand in the way of progress toward equal pay yet again?
The Unfair Wage Recovery Act is modeled on the federal Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act — a landmark law adopted five years ago that kept the doors of the federal courthouse open for workers who experience pay discrimination. This bill would provide that the time period for a person to bring a pay discrimination suit under New Jersey state law re-starts each time that the person receives a paycheck that reflects discrimination. This would ensure that victims of discrimination won’t be denied a remedy just because they weren’t aware of discrimination until years later, and that employers will have the right incentives to promptly root out and eliminate any unfair pay disparities.
The Wage Transparency Act would require businesses that contract with the state of New Jersey to report information about the compensation paid to their employees and the race and gender of those employees. Companies that contract with the government should not be allowed to use taxpayer money to perpetuate pay discrimination. By shedding light on the pay practices of government contractors, the bill would not only help to ensure that public funds don’t go to companies that are violating the law but also give employers incentives to proactively pursue equal pay for their workforces in the first place. These benefits of transparency for advancing pay equality were recently recognized by President Obama in a memorandum directing similar data collection from federal government contractors.
Across the country, this has been a banner couple of years for state activity in pursuit of equal pay. With these two bills, New Jersey has the chance to be a leader on these issues — we hope Governor Christie will heed that opportunity.