New Jersey’s comprehensive new equal pay law, the Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act (the “Act”), took effect last month. The law amends the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“NJLAD”) by making it a prohibited employment practice for an employer to compensate an employee who is a member of a “protected class” less than the amount paid to employees who are not members of that protected class for “substantially similar work, when viewed as a composite of skill, effort, and responsibility.” Employers can prove a compensation differential is lawful by showing it is due to a seniority system, merit system, or by satisfying several factors including that the differential is based on legitimate, bona fide factors other than the employee’s membership in a protected class, and that the factors supporting the differential are job-related and based on a legitimate business necessity. The Act extends the NJLAD’s two-year statute of limitations to a six-year statute of limitations for wage discrimination claims.
Massachusetts recently joined a growing list of states amending their equal pay legislation. On July 1, 2018, the Act to Establish Pay Equity, originally passed in 2016, took effect, amending Massachusetts’ existing Equal Pay Act.
The law bans pay differentials on the basis of sex where two people perform comparable work, adopting the more liberal “equal pay for comparable work” standard, as opposed to the federal law’s “equal pay for equal work” standard. Comparable work is defined as work that requires substantially similar skill, effort, and responsibility that is performed under similar working conditions. Like other equal pay laws, employers can plead certain affirmative defenses in response to an employee’s claim of pay discrimination, if the employer can show the pay differential is due to:
Westchester County’s salary history ban, signed on Equal Pay Day in April 2018, took effect on July 9, 2018. The law amends the Westchester County Human Rights Law, and makes it unlawful for an employer, including labor organizations and employment agencies or “agents” thereof, to:
- rely on the wage history of a prospective employee from any current or former employer in determining wages; and
- request or require as a condition of being interviewed, as a condition of being considered for an offer of employment, or as a condition of employment, that a prospective employee disclose wage history information.
Earlier this week, Wendy Moore, a former partner at Jones Day, filed a representative action against the law firm in San Francisco Superior Court, alleging a single cause of action pursuant to the California Private Attorneys General Act (“PAGA”) for alleged violations of the California Equal Pay Act, as amended by the Fair Pay Act of 2015, and related violations of the California Labor Code. The PAGA permits employees to bring civil suits to recover penalties on behalf of themselves and other aggrieved employees for Labor Code violations. Unlike class actions, PAGA claims can proceed regardless of whether the plaintiff can meet the requirements to certify a class.
Late last year, a bipartisan coalition in the United States Senate sponsored legislation to ban the use of mandatory arbitration agreements to settle sexual harassment and sex discrimination claims (H.R. 4734/S. 2203). While that bill—titled the “Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Harassment Act of 2017”—remains pending, a similar bill is also now pending before the California legislature (A.B. 3080). If enacted, A.B. 3080 would prohibit employers from requiring mandatory arbitration agreements as a condition of employment, continued employment, or the receipt of any employment-related benefit, such as a bonus.
In the wake of the #MeToo movement, a number of states are considering legislation that would limit an employer’s ability to use non-disclosure agreements (“NDAs”) when settling sexual harassment claims. New York was the first state to enact such legislation, which was passed as part of a wide-ranging budget bill that takes effect July 11, 2018. New York’s law bans non-disclosure provisions in settlements of claims involving sexual harassment allegations, unless confidentiality is the “complainant’s preference,” provided some onerous procedures are complied with. Washington State passed a similar law. Arizona, California, and Pennsylvania are also considering legislation to restrict the use of NDAs.