gender equality balance scale

The quick advance of a previously-vetoed New Jersey bill meant to police pay disparity among men and women continued Thursday as the Assembly Appropriations Committee unanimously approved it with little discussion.

A-1 would prohibit unequal pay for “substantially similar” work under the Law Against Discrimination; require a different rate of compensation be justified by factors other than sex; restart the statute of limitations for each instance of discrimination; prohibit employer retaliation against an employee for disclosing or discussing compensation; and require transparency in state contracting.

The Appropriations Committee hearing came three days after the Assembly Labor Committee approved the bill.

The measure has garnered some opposition, with Alida Kass, president and chief counsel of tort reform group the New Jersey Civil Justice Institute, testifying on both days.

On Thursday, asked by the committee to focus on the bill’s potential impact on the Treasury, Kass noted that prospective state contractors must provide compensation data to state officials.

“Basically to do business with the state, you are incurring a significant risk not just of liability, but retroactive liability with treble damages based on a standard that is not the relevant standard with respect to equal pay [in other jurisdictions],” she said. As an employer, Kass added, “you have to kind of factor that into the price for which it’s worth doing business with the state.”

Another group, the National Federation of Independent Businesses, also appeared in opposition, but didn’t testify.

Ten groups appeared in favor, but didn’t testify and went unnamed by committee chairman John Burzichelli. 

The panel voted 10-0 to release the bill.

A state Senate committee approved an identical version of the bill earlier this month.

Earlier versions had been vetoed by previous Gov. Chris Christie., who expressed concerns that the legislation’s liability-creating provisions went needlessly beyond its forerunner, the federal Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009.