New Jersey Governor Takes Action on "Gender Pay Parity" Bills

more+
less-

Executive Summary:  On Friday, September 21, 2012, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed into law a "Gender Pay Parity" bill that imposes a new notice posting requirement on covered employers.  The governor rejected a second bill that would have increased reporting requirements for public contractors and sent the remaining two bills back to the legislature with significant amendments. 

New Posting Requirement Approved

Governor Christie approved a new notice posting requirement regarding equitable pay and gender discrimination (A-2647).  Under the new law, employers with 50 or more employees must post and distribute a notice that informs workers of: "the right to be free of gender inequity or bias in pay, compensation, benefits or other terms of conditions of employment" under state and federal laws.  The New Jersey Department of Labor (NJDOL) will draft the notice and also bear responsibility for translating the notice into multiple languages. 

When Must the Notice Be Provided?

Employers must distribute the notice to employees:

  • at the time of hire;
  • annually;
  • on or before December 31 of each year; and
  • at any time upon a worker's request. 

How Should the Notice be Distributed?

The notice is to be made available to employees by:

  • email;
  • printed material, including pay check insert, flyer, or as an attachment to an employee manual or policy book; or
  • via an internet or intranet site if the site is for the exclusive use of all workers, can be accessed by all workers, and the employer provides notice of the posting.  

Employers must ensure that they receive a signed acknowledgement from each employee that he or she has read and understood the notice within 30 days of receipt. 

When Does the Requirement Take Effect?

The law is scheduled to take effect on November 21; however, employers will have 30 days to comply with the new law once the NJDOL issues the new notice.       

Reporting Requirements for Public Contractors Rejected

Governor Christie absolutely vetoed the second bill (A-2649), which required any employer who contracted with the State of New Jersey to continually report to the NJDOL information regarding the gender, race, job title, occupational category, and total compensation of every employee in connection with the contract.  In vetoing the bill, Governor Christie stated that the bill would burden countless employers with onerous reporting requirements, thereby driving up the cost of public contracts, which are ultimately shouldered by the taxpayer.

Retaliation and Discriminatory Pay Bills Returned to Legislature

Finally, Governor Christie returned the remaining bills to the Legislature with significant amendments.  As to the third bill (A-2650), which proposed elimination of the statute of limitations defense applicable to compensation discrimination claims under New Jersey's anti-discrimination statute, Governor Christie recommended that the bill be amended to mirror the holding of the New Jersey Supreme Court and the federal Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 to explicitly limit the amount of back pay an employee can recover.  Governor Christie's changes limit the damages recoverable from discriminatory pay practices to only the previous two years, instead of throughout the life of the allegedly discriminatory practice. 

As to the fourth bill (A-2648), which prohibited retaliation against employees who disclose or request pay information, including information regarding their compensation, benefits, or occupational category, based on a reasonable belief that there is a discriminatory pay practice occurring in the workplace, Governor Christie recommended that the provision be included in the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination rather than the New Jersey whistleblower statute, the Conscientious Employee Protection Act.  These two bills are now returned to the Legislature for concurrence with the Governor's changes before they become law. 

Employers' Bottom Line:

Employers should breathe a big sigh of relief that Governor Christie's actions and recommendations on the "Gender Pay Parity" package of bills has lessened the impact of what could have been significant burdens on New Jersey employers. 

If you have any questions regarding the new law or other labor or employment related issues affecting employers in New Jersey, please contact the authors of this Alert, Salvador Simao, ssimao@fordharrison.com, or Joanna Rich, jrich@fordharrison.com, both of whom are attorneys in our Short Hills office, or the FordHarrison attorney with whom you usually work.