TRENTON – Senator Jen Beck (R-11) sent a patter of BlackBerry chatter through the chamber this afternoon when she voted – along with three others – to oppose an equal pay for women bill championed by Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-37).
Beck occupies a battleground district in Monmouth County, scene of the political demise last year of her two Republican running mates.
“The bill,” she said, “is political theater.”
S-992 passed handily.
“This is the third time this identical bill was posted,” she added. “The governor CVd it. What’s the purpose? There is no more passionate advocate for women’s rights than me, but this isn’t substantive.”
There’s a federal law on the books and New Jersey has strong anti-discrimination laws.
“My constituents are most worried about whether or not they can continue to stay in Monmouth County because of high property taxes,” Beck said. “Period. This is window dressing.”
Weinberg’s bill wasn’t the only bill Beck objected to, she said. She looked at the board list of eight bills put him merely to generate headlines, she argued, including the state Senator Bob Gordon’s Port Authority reform bill, which New Jersey Democrats insisted on posting despite the fact, she said, that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo will veto the bill.
“A political exercise,” Beck said, denouncing the Democrats’ agenda.
Weinberg, of course, saw the issue differently.
“Women in New Jersey and across the nation still earn less than men for the same work. In 2016, this is incomprehensible,” said the senate majority leader. “Unfortunately, our current laws don’t do enough to protect against wage discrimination. We have to take action for our residents who are working hard and not getting the pay they deserve, but also for our children and grandchildren who should grow up in a society that treats them fairly.
“This is not a partisan issue – this is an equality issue,” added Weinberg. “I want to thank [Republican] Senator [Diane] Allen for sharing with us her experiences with wage discrimination in the workplace and for her support for this legislation. This vote was another step forward in the effort to close the wage gap in New Jersey.”
Specifically, the legislation would:
- Prohibit unequal pay for “substantially similar” work, under the Law Against Discrimination (LAD). The legislation would make it unlawful for an employer to pay a rate of compensation, including benefits, to an employee of one sex less than the rate paid to an employee of the other sex for substantially similar work when viewed as a composite of skill, effort and responsibility, unless specific conditions apply.
- Require different rate of compensation be justified by factors other than sex. The bill permits an employer to pay a different rate of compensation if the employer demonstrates that the differential is made pursuant to a seniority system, a merit system, or is based on legitimate, bona fide factors other than sex, such as training, education, experience, or the quantity or quality of production. It requires that each factor is applied reasonably, that one or more of the factors account for the entire wage differential, and that the factor or factors do not perpetuate a sex-based differential in compensation, are job-related and based upon legitimate business necessities. Comparison of wage rates would be based on those in all of an employer’s operations or facilities.
- Restart statute of limitations for each instance of discrimination. Provides that a discriminatory compensation decision or other employment practice that is unlawful under the LAD occurs each time that compensation is paid in furtherance of that discriminatory decision or practice – effectively making each paycheck another instance of discrimination, reflecting the language in the federal Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. In addition, the bill provides that liability shall accrue and an aggrieved person may obtain relief for back pay for the entire period of time in which the violation has been continuous, if the violation continues to occur within the statute of limitations. This provision is stronger than the federal Lilly Ledbetter Act, which has a two-year cap on back pay.
- Prohibit employer retaliation against employee for disclosing compensation. Employers could not take reprisals against an employee for disclosing information about the job title, occupational category, and rate of compensation of any employees or former employees, as well as other information. It would prohibit an employer from requiring an employee or prospective employee to forgo rights to make or request those disclosures.
- Require transparency in state contracting. Requires contractors to provide information on gender, race, job title, occupational category and compensation, and to report certain changes during the course of the contract; information must be filed with Labor Commissioner and Division of Civil Rights. The bill requires disclosure to employees and their authorized representatives upon request.