What Rights To Equal Pay Does An Executive Or A Professional Have In New Jersey?
Under New Jersey law, and for most purposes, executives and professionals are considered employees. They have the same rights to equal pay as any employee in New Jersey. These rights are quite broad and they arise under both federal and state law.
The federal basis for equal pay is the Equal Pay Act. This federal law prohibits nearly all employers from discriminating, on the basis of gender, in compensation between employees performing “equal work on jobs the performance of which requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions.” The Equal Pay Act allows unequal pay, however, where the disparity results from a seniority system, a merit system, a system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production, or a differential based on any factor other than gender. The Equal Pay Act is part of the Fair Labor Standards Act (the “FLSA”).
So, too, the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (the “NJLAD”) renders it an unlawful employment practice for “an employer to pay any of its employees who is a member of a protected class at a rate of compensation, including benefits, which is less than the rate paid by the employer to employees who are not members of the protected class for substantially similar work, when viewed as a composite of skill, effort and responsibility.”
The NJLAD prohibits an employer who is paying a rate of compensation in violation of the NJLAD from reducing the rate of compensation of any employee in order to comply with the statute.
The NJLAD permits a different rate of compensation only if (i) the employer demonstrates that the differential is made pursuant to a seniority system or a merit system; or (ii) the employer demonstrates that the differential is based on or more legitimate, bona fide factors other than the characteristics of members of the protected class, such as training, education or experience, or the quantity or quality of production.
Under the NJLAD, employees who perform substantially similar work must be paid the same rate, regardless of the titles or job descriptions they have.
Unlike the federal Equal Pay Act, the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination not only prohibits only unequal pay on the basis of gender, but also bans unequal pay many other protected categories. In particular, under the NJLAD, the protected classes based on which employers may not discriminate in pay include race, creed, color, national origin, nationality, ancestry, age, marital status, civil union status, domestic partnership status, affectional or sexual orientation, genetic information, pregnancy, sex, gender identity or expression, disability or atypical hereditary cellular or blood trait, and military status.
Under the NJLAD, employees who win lawsuits for discriminatory pay practices are entitled to recover not only the wages that they were wrongfully denied, but also liquidated damages equal to 200 percent of these underpayments of wages. In other words, under the NJLAD, you can recover triple damages for unequal pay.
The Court may also award, to an employee who wins a lawsuit under the NJLAD for discriminatory pay practices, the employee’s reasonable attorney’s fees.
The statute of limitations on equal pay claims in New Jersey is six years. A plaintiff employee can go back and recover equal pay that he or she was denied for the past six years.
If you are an executive or a professional in the Manhattan City metro area and you believe that you have been wrongfully terminated or that your employer has discriminated against you in pay, call Manhattan City Employment Attorney David S. Rich at (347) 941-0760 today.