On January 6, 2014, the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development (NJDOL) published the long-awaited gender equity notice and accompanying regulations. Back in September 2012, the New Jersey Legislature amended the New Jersey Equal Pay Act to require notice to employees of their right to be free of gender discrimination in the workplace, including inequity or bias in pay, compensation, benefits or other terms and conditions of employment. The gender equity notice informs employees of existing rights under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Pay Act. The form of the notice and the rules governing its publication and dissemination went into effect yesterday. Copies of the required notice should be posted in English and Spanish and can be accessed here. If an employer reasonably believes that the first language of ten percent or more of its workforce is other than English or Spanish, the employer shall provide notice in that language also, if such notice is available through the NJDOL. It is important to note the key dates below.
The new regulations apply to covered employers — those with 50 or more employees regardless of whether those employees work in New Jersey or outside the state. Effective immediately as of January 6, 2014, the date the regulations and notice were enacted, covered employers must conspicuously post the gender equity notice in an accessible workplace location, such as on an employee bulletin board or the company's Internet or intranet website, if the site is for the exclusive use by employees and is accessible to all employees.
On or before February 5, 2014, covered employers must provide each employee with a copy of the gender equity notice accompanied by an acknowledgment, indicating that the employee received the notice, read the notice and understands its terms. Covered employers can satisfy the dissemination requirement by handing out hard copies of the notice (e.g., through a paycheck insert, an attachment to an employee handbook or a flyer distributed at an employee meeting), by circulating the notice by email or by notifying employees that the notice has been posted to the company's Internet or intranet site, provided that the site is for the exclusive use of employees and all employees have access to it. Employees must acknowledge receipt of the notice from their employers either in writing or by electronic verification and must return or verify acknowledgment of the gender equity notice within 30 days of receipt.
As of January 6, 2014, employers should provide the gender equity notice to all new hires at the time of hire. Thereafter, covered employers must annually provide employees with a copy of the gender equity notice on or before December 31 of each calendar year. Additionally, covered employers are required to distribute the notice at any time in response to an employee's request. While the regulations do not specifically address whether employers are required to obtain employee acknowledgments each time the notice is distributed after the first time, it is advisable for employers to do so.
While penalties for noncompliance with the gender equity notice requirements have not been specified in the recently enacted regulations, the NJDOL will likely impose fines and penalties for such violations akin to those associated with noncompliance with other notice requirements.
What This Means for New Jersey Employers
Employers should add the gender equity notice and related acknowledgment to their packets for new hires. Employers should be reminded that their new hire kits should include the required Family Leave Insurance Program notice and the Mandatory Recordkeeping notice, both of which can be accessed via the following link to the NJDOL's employer poster packet: http://lwd.dol.state.nj.us/labor/lwdhome/content/
employerpacketforms.html. Employers should also add distribution of the gender equity notice to their list of materials circulated annually, which includes the Conscientious Employee Protection Act notice.