I Am Paid Less Than My Male Co-worker for the Same Work: Is This Legal?

Common sense dictates that men and women should receive equal pay for the same work. However, according to research, a persistent pay gap between men and women continues to hurt American workers and the economy. According to a Pew Research Center study of median hourly earnings of both part-time and full-time workers, in 2020, women earned 84% of what men earned. If you are a female worker who is being paid less than a male co-worker for the same work, you should know that New Jersey law offers you protection. The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination prohibits unequal pay based on gender. Apart from prohibiting unequal pay based on gender, the law prohibits unequal pay based on any other protected class under the LAD. In April 2018, Governor Phil Murphy signed the Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act, which amended the NJLAD to prohibit unequal pay based on any protected class.

Pay Disparities That are Illegal Under the NJLAD

According to the NJLAD, it is illegal for an employer to pay a female worker less than a male worker if the two workers are doing “substantially similar” work. Apart from prohibiting unequal pay based on gender, the NJLAD prohibits unequal pay based on any other protected class. Under the NJLAD, apart from gender, a protected class includes any of the following;

  • Race
  • Color
  • Age
  • Creed
  • National origin
  • Marital status
  • Gender identity, gender expression
  • Domestic partnership status
  • Nationality
  • Ancestry
  • Genetic information
  • Affectional or sexual orientation
  • Civil union status

Defining “Substantially Similar Work”

When determining whether employees are doing “substantially similar work,” the law requires that skill, effort, and responsibility be considered. Skill is the ability, experience, training, and education needed to perform a job. Effort refers to the requirements of a job and considers the amount of exertion (both mental and physical) required to do a job. Lastly, responsibility refers to the job duties required and the level of discretion and accountability necessary to do the job. Generally, employees perform “substantially similar work” if their job duties require a similar degree of effort, skill, and responsibility.

However, it is crucial to note that, according to the law, substantially similar jobs do not necessarily have to be identical. And small differences in effort, skill, and responsibility do not automatically mean that work is not substantially similar. 

When Can Employers Pay Workers Differently for Substantially Similar Work?

An employer is only allowed to pay employees performing “substantially similar work” differently if the employer can show:

  • That the difference in pay is made pursuant to a merit or seniority system
  • That the difference in pay results from a legitimate, bona fide reason articulated by the employer

Remedies for Pay Discrimination

The Equal Pay Act allows you to recover up to six years of back pay if you can establish discrimination in compensation. In addition to the six years of back pay, the Equal Pay Act allows you to recover treble damages if you can prove discrimination in compensation. Treble damages allow the court to triple the monetary damages awarded to a prevailing plaintiff.

Contact Us for Legal Help

If you believe you are being paid less than your colleague because of discrimination, contact the Trabosh Law Firm to schedule a free consultation.