It’s illegal for an employer to discriminate against any current or potential employee on the basis of that employee’s gender or gender expression.
If an employer has discriminated against you based on your gender during the hiring process or in their offer of compensation or benefits, you may have a claim for gender discrimination. The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) prohibits employers from discriminating against applicants or employees based on gender, along with certain other protected characteristics. Other federal and state statutes may also offer possible compensation and recourse, depending on your individual situation.
Equal Pay for Equal Work
The federal Equal Pay Act requires that employers pay men and women equal compensation for substantially equal work in the same establishment. “Substantially equal” work is that which requires essentially similar effort, skill, and responsibility and which is performed in the same location under similar working conditions. The jobs do not have to be identical as long as they have essentially the same responsibilities. Whether two jobs are “substantially equal” is often a fact-specific question and requires a case-by-case evaluation. There are four enumerated exceptions to the EPA’s requirements. A disparity in pay is permitted where there is a seniority system, a merit system, a system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production, or a differential based on any other factor other than sex.
In New Jersey, the Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act took effect on July 1, 2018. This law prohibits paying a woman less than a man for substantially the same job. It also puts the burden of proving that a pay difference is based on a legitimate, bona fide factor other than gender onto the employer (e.g., a company must provide evidence that a male worker in a substantially equal job is paid more because of his seniority, merit, skill set, etc.). This significantly narrows the scope of an employer’s ability to claim that the disparity was based on “any other factor other than sex” and reduces the plaintiff’s burden of proving discriminatory intent.
The state Equal Pay Act also prohibits retaliation against employees who discuss, disclose, or request information about current or former compensation paid to other workers. Public contractors are affirmatively required to provide general information about their workers’ demographics and pay. Employers may not prohibit or discourage employees from sharing or discussing wage and benefit information.
Protection From Discriminatory Adverse Employment Actions
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the NJLAD both prohibit discrimination based on gender through all aspects of employment, including hiring, termination, compensation, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, benefits (such as leave and health insurance), and any other term or condition of employment. An employer cannot undertake an adverse action against an employee for reasons based on the worker’s gender or gender expression (e.g., assigning a woman who doesn’t seem “feminine” enough to a lower-paying position).
Protection from Harassment
It is generally unlawful for anyone in the workplace to harass an employee based on their gender or gender expression, including a worker’s supervisors, coworkers, or clients. Illegal harassment is conduct that is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment action (like termination or demotion). If the harassing conduct is intentional, extreme, and outrageous, it may also constitute intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Don’t Wait – Contact an Attorney Today
Victims of discrimination in New Jersey can file employment-related claims with two separate government agencies: the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for federal discrimination claims and the New Jersey Division of Civil Rights (DCR) for state-law based discrimination claims. Instead of or in addition to filing a claim with these agencies, a victim of gender discrimination may file a lawsuit in state or federal court. An experienced attorney will help you choose which venue and strategy is most appropriate for your situation.
The deadlines to initiate a claim to recover compensation for gender discrimination vary widely depending on the circumstances of your case. If you believe you’ve been the victim of gender discrimination, you should talk to an attorney experienced in federal and New Jersey anti-discrimination laws.