Downey Equal Pay Bill Passes Legislature, Now Awaits Governor's Signature

TRENTON - The State Senate has passed Assemblywoman Joann Downey’s equal-pay legislation that would prohibit employers from asking job applicants questions about their salary history, sending the bill to the Governor’s desk for approval.

The bill (A-1094) prohibits employers from screening a job applicant based on his or her salary history, including prior wages, salaries or benefits. Passed by the Assembly in March, the bill also makes it unlawful for an employer to require an applicant’s salary history to satisfy any minimum or maximum criteria.

“A person’s salary should be based on their worth, not their job history,” said Downey (D-Freehold).

“Unfortunately, that’s not the case for far too many employees - and worse, it’s contributing to the staggering wage gap between men and women.”

According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, women in the United States earn less than 80 cents on the dollar relative to a man’s wages. That disparity is only starker for women of color, marking a staggeringly wide gender wage gap.

“When a female job seeker is forced to disclose her salary history on an employment application, she’ll likely put down a lower number than her male counterpart, making it easier for a prospective employer to offer her a lower wage,” Downey added. “Pay equity might be the law of the land in New Jersey, but we need a tool to properly enforce it. By banning questions about salary history, we can wipe away a history of bias and implicit discrimination, allowing women to start fresh with the compensation that they truly deserve.”

“Over the course of a career, wage discrimination based on prior salary can cost a woman hundreds of thousands of dollars,” said Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling, D-Neptune, who co-sponsored the bill. “The gap may be wide enough that she may never reach the same rung on the salary ladder as her male equal. That’s harm done to her family, her children, and even her retirement income, which is determined by a lifetime’s compensation. It’s long past time for a change.”

Under the measure, an employer may still consider salary history in determining salary, benefits and other compensation for the applicant, and may verify the applicant’s salary history, if an applicant voluntarily, without coercion, provides the employer with that history. An applicant’s refusal to volunteer compensation information will not be considered in any employment decisions.

Any employer who violates the bill’s provisions would be liable for a civil penalty up to $1,000 for the first violation, $5,000 for the second, and $10,000 for each subsequent violation.

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