In August 2013, Governor Christie approved an amendment to the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“NJLAD”) prohibiting employers from retaliating against employees who request current or former colleagues to provide information about their job title, occupational category or pay.  The amendment is designed to combat pay inequality, based on the notion that if employees know they can ask each other about their salaries and benefits, they would more freely discuss these topics and discriminatory practices would be harder to hide.

The bill was first introduced as amending New Jersey’s Conscientious Employee Protection Act (“CEPA”) but Governor Christie conditionally vetoed it.  The Legislature then reintroduced it as amending NJLAD, which was more consistent with the original intent of the law of tackling workplace discrimination.

In 2012, Governor Christie also amended New Jersey’s Equal Pay Act requiring covered employers to provide written notification to employees of their right to gender equality in pay, compensation, benefits and other terms and conditions of employment.  Both of these amendments are aimed to tackle pay inequality at the workplace and New Jersey employers should be conscious of these two amendments as they implement compensation plans, but should also reevaluate their practices generally.

When investigating federal wage discrimination claims, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) analyzes more than just employee wages when evaluating employers’ compensation systems for potential discrimination.  Sharon Alexander, special assistant to EEOC Chair Jacqueline Berrien, said the commission uses two lenses when investigating possible pay bias under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Equal Pay Act.  One lens focuses on “apples to apples” wage comparisons, she said.  The other lens considers broader practices that might not constitute compensation bias per se, but may nonetheless have a discriminatory effect on pay.

Thus, New Jersey employers should not only be mindful of just general wage comparisons, but should closely consider their broader practices that may have a discriminatory impact on pay.