Unfortunately, pay discrimination is common. All too often, companies pay comparable employees different salaries for substantially similar work. It is legal for a company to offer different salaries based on job qualifications, experience, salary history, or even for no particular reason. However, it is a violation of the law in both New Jersey and New York for a company to pay you less because of your age, race, gender, disability or another legally protected category.
In addition to prohibiting salary discrimination, state and federal anti-discrimination laws including the Equal Pay Act, the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD) and the New York Human Rights Law (NYHRL) prohibit companies from using an illegal factor as a reason to offer you a smaller bonus or lower commissions, or to deprive you of another benefit it provides to your peers.Gender Discrimination in Pay
Perhaps the most common form of pay discrimination is based on gender. Historically, women have been paid less than men who perform the same work. While that gap has narrowed over time, the average woman still is paid far less than her male counterpart with the same level of education, training and experience. This form of gender discrimination violates the law.Proving Your Salary is Discriminatory
Not every unfair or unequal salary is discriminatory. There are many reasons why a particular employee might be under-compensated compared to her peers, including salary history at previous jobs, skill at negotiating raises and pay disparities between departments within the same company.
Then how do you know if you are the victim of pay discrimination? Some common factors that suggest your pay is the result of unlawful discrimination include:
Admissions: In some situations your supervisor or someone else in the company’s management might admit you are being underpaid for an illegal reason.
Pattern: You might learn that individuals in a particular legally protected group are underpaid compared to their peers. For example, you might learn that the women in your department are paid significantly less than the men, or that African American and Hispanic employees are underpaid compared to their Caucasian peers.
Harassment: If you or your coworkers have experienced unlawful harassment at work, that might suggest the reason you are being underpaid relates to the same unlawful reason. This is especially true if the employer cannot provide a valid explanation for the pay disparity.
Of course, these are just a few examples of evidence that might support the inference that the reason you are being underpaid is illegal. Please contact our office at (973) 744-4000 to discuss the facts and circumstances of your personal situation so we can help determine whether you have been the victim of pay discrimination at your job.Protection for Employees Who Share Salary Information
In an effort to protect employees who want to learn whether they have been the victim of pay discrimination, the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD) prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who ask a current or former coworker about their compensation or benefits. For more information about this legal protection please see our article: Governor Christie Signs Two New Employment Laws.Related Articles
If you are interested in learning more about equal pay claims we recommend you read one of the following articles on our Employment Law Blog: