This summer could represent a big moment in the fight to close the wage gap in New Jersey. Two bills aimed at addressing pay discrimination recently cleared both of the houses of the state’s legislature — the Unfair Wage Recovery Act and the Wage Transparency Act. But Governor Christie has previously vetoed both these key pieces of legislation, and so the question is — will he stand in the way of progress toward equal pay yet again?
The Unfair Wage Recovery Act is modeled on the federal Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act — a landmark law adopted five years ago that kept the doors of the federal courthouse open for workers who experience pay discrimination. This bill would provide that the time period for a person to bring a pay discrimination suit under New Jersey state law re-starts each time that the person receives a paycheck that reflects discrimination. This would ensure that victims of discrimination won’t be denied a remedy just because they weren’t aware of discrimination until years later, and that employers will have the right incentives to promptly root out and eliminate any unfair pay disparities.
In states across the country, this has been a banner year for agreement across the aisle about the importance of safeguarding women’s rights at work. First Governor Chris Christie signed a law – adopted with just a single dissenting vote in the state legislature – ensuring that pregnant workers in New Jersey with medical restrictions will have access to basic workplace accommodations that they need to continue performing their jobs and earning income for their growing families. Then similar protections for pregnant workers became law in West Virginia with unanimous support.
And now both New Hampshire and Minnesota are poised to improve protections for women in the workplace after the legislatures in both states took bipartisan actions earlier this week!
Great news out of New Jersey! Yesterday, Governor Chris Christie signed a bill into law that protects and supports pregnant women in the workplace. The new law bans pregnancy discrimination and requires employers to reasonably accommodate pregnant workers so that they can continue working safely through their pregnancies. By signing the bill, Gov. Christie joins the unanimous New Jersey Senate and 77-1 New Jersey Assembly that support reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers. As a result, fewer pregnant workers will be forced off the job at the moment they can least afford it. Read more »
It’s 2014 and it’s hard to believe that pregnant women still face discrimination in the workplace. Many women can work through their pregnancies without changes in their jobs, but some women need temporary, often minor adjustments in their work duties or schedules to continue working safely during their pregnancy. Unfortunately, many times these women are being fired from their jobs, forced onto unpaid leave, or forced to quit when employers refuse to provide temporary accommodations for pregnant women to continue working without jeopardizing their health and the health of their pregnancy. Read more »
Now that Thanksgiving is behind us, the holiday shopping season is officially in full swing. But while some of us retreat to the internet to avoid frenzied shoppers at the mall, the season is far more stressful for many of the workers restocking store shelves and serving meals in the food court (and not just because they have to deal with swarms of cranky customers). For millions of employees in retail, fast food, and other industries that pay poverty-level wages, the end of the year means hard work and higher expenses – without any chance of a holiday bonus.
Fortunately, there’s movement on the minimum wage in a number of states and localities – and even some encouraging signs nationally. Today, in a major speech on economic mobility, President Obama renewed his call to raise the minimum wage. Recognizing the link between the low minimum wage and widening economic inequality, he described an increase as a key piece of an agenda to restore opportunity for all. Read more »
When New Jersey’s minimum wage goes up in January, an estimated 250,000 women and 179,000 men will get a raise. About a quarter of these workers are parents; over 200,000 children live in families in which at least one parent would benefit from the minimum wage increase. New Jersey Policy Perspective estimates that the additional dollars flowing through the state’s economy would create over 1,500 new jobs. And because women are the majority of workers who would get a raise, the higher minimum wage could help close the wage gap. Read more »
Next Tuesday (November 5) is Election Day, and it’s a particularly important one for voters in the Garden State. In addition to choosing their next governor, New Jerseyans will get to decide whether their state’s minimum wage will remain at $7.25 per hour for the foreseeable future – or go up to $8.25 next year and continue to rise with the cost of living.
On Tuesday’s ballot, New Jersey voters will see Ballot Question #2, which – if approved – would amend the state constitution to raise the minimum wage to $8.25 per hour on January 1, 2014, and adjust it annually thereafter to keep up with inflation. Read more »
It’s been fifty years since the Equal Pay Act of 1963 made clear that women should receive equal pay for equal work, but women are still paid less than men in nearly every occupation.
And because employee salaries are often kept secret, it is difficult for women to find out when they are being paid less than their male colleagues, and therefore difficult to challenge pay discrepancies. In fact, over 61 percent of private-sector employees report that discussing wages is either prohibited or discouraged by their employers. Employer policies and practices that prevent workers from discussing their pay mean that a woman worker could be paid less year after year than the man across the hall doing her same job and never know it.
One week ago today, New Jersey took a huge step toward solving this problem when Chris Christie signed into law a bill prohibiting retaliation against employees who disclose salary information for the purpose of investigating whether pay decisions are being made unfairly. Effective immediately, the new law prohibits employer retaliation against employees for discussing information such as job title, occupational category, rate of compensation, and employee benefits. Read more »
The answer, though, depends a lot on where you live. A majority of states follow the federal minimum wage, which is not scheduled to rise even though it has been stuck at $7.25 an hour for almost four years — and for tipped workers in states that follow the federal standard, the minimum cash wage has been frozen at a shockingly low $2.13 per hour for more than 20 years. But in states like Washington, Colorado, Ohio, and Vermont, the minimum wage will automatically rise in January 2014 to keep up with inflation, and minimum wage increases recently enacted in New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island will also begin to take effect in 2014.
To make it easy for you to find out what’s happening with the minimum wage in your state, the National Women's Law Center just released this handy interactive map.
You can click on any state to see its minimum wage and tipped minimum wage, along with the share of minimum wage workers who are women, the next scheduled increase in the minimum wage, and any recent action on the minimum wage in the state legislature. Read more »
Momentum continues to build around a minimum wage increase in the days following President Obama’s call to raise the federal level. Today brings good news from the Garden State, where the New Jersey Assembly just approved a proposed constitutional amendment that would raise the state minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.25 per hour, then adjust the wage annually to keep up with inflation. The Senate approved the same proposal last week. Whether New Jersey workers get a raise is now up to the voters: the amendment will be on the ballot this November. (State lawmakers adopted the constitutional amendment strategy after Governor Christie issued a conditional veto of the minimum wage bill the legislature passed last year; the governor has no role in the amendment process.)
A minimum wage of $8.25 per hour would increase a full-time minimum wage worker’s annual pay from $14,500 to $16,500. This $2,000 boost would still not be enough to lift a family of three above the poverty line, and it definitely falls short of a living wage in a state as expensive as New Jersey. Moreover, the proposed constitutional amendment would not change New Jersey’s minimum cash wage for tipped workers, which is just $2.13 per hour. (Though employers would be required to ensure their tipped employees are paid $8.25 per hour, tipped workers are often paid less than the minimum wage due to wage theft and other illegal practices.) Nonetheless, a $1.00 per hour increase in New Jersey’s minimum wage would be an important step in the right direction – and indexing wages to inflation would help ensure that these very modest gains are not erased as the cost of living rises. Read more »