Acting Governor Sheila Oliver was at the Montclair Public Library last Thursday to sign legislation aimed at closing the wage gap. From left, Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling; Dena Mottola-Jaborska, associate director of New Jersey Citizen Action; and Senator Loretta Weinberg.
DEBORAH ANN TRIPOLDI/ STAFF

BY JAIMIE JULIA WINTERS
winters@montclairlocal.news

If you’re a working woman in Montclair, you make 18 to 27.3 percent less than your male counterparts, according to the American Association of University Women (AAUW), making Montclair an appropriate site for Acting Governor Sheila Oliver to sign legislation aimed at closing the wage gap.

The law, signed last Thursday, July 25, at the Montclair Public Library, prohibits employers from requiring job applicants to disclose their salary history in the application process. The law makes it an unlawful employment practice in New Jersey for any employer to screen a job applicant based on their salary history, including prior wages, salary, commission, benefits or any other current or previous compensation. It is designed to ensure that employees in the state receive salaries that are commensurate with their skills, qualifications, and experience.

“I am proud to sign this bill today for our women, children and families, which will institute this policy as state law, and put an end to this discriminatory workplace practice once and for all,” Oliver said. 

Studies have shown that women who hold full-time, year-round jobs in New Jersey are paid 82 cents for every dollar paid to men holding full-time, year-round jobs and that this gender wage gap is demonstrated across all industries and education levels of workers. 

According to figures on the Census American Fact Finder figures for 2016, the average Montclair man working full-time made $105,219, while the average Montclair full-time working woman made $67,139, a gap of 36.2 percent. For all Montclair workers — both part-time and full-time — the pay gap rises to 38 percent.

The wage gap is worse for women of color and working mothers. African American women are paid 61 percent of what white men are paid; Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander women are paid 59 percent; American Indian and Alaska Native women are paid 57 percent, and Hispanic women are paid just 53 percent of what white men are paid, according to the report. The wage gap between Latina women and white men in New Jersey is the largest in the nation.

Proponents of the law say requiring applicants to disclose their prior salary history that could reflect a gender wage gap puts women at a disadvantage before they even enter the workforce.

“In an ideal world, your gender would not influence how much you earn at work, but that’s not the world we live in,” said Assemblywoman Joann Downey, one of the sponsors. “Pay equity might be the law of the land in New Jersey, but we need a tool to properly enforce it. By banning questions about salary history, we can wipe away a history of bias and implicit discrimination, allowing women to start fresh with the compensation that they truly deserve.”

Under the law, an employer may still consider salary history in determining salary, benefits and other compensation for the applicant, and may verify the applicant’s salary history, but only if an applicant volunteers that information. An applicant’s refusal to volunteer compensation information will not be considered in any employment decisions.

“Salary offers to new hires based primarily on their previous salaries only perpetuate the wage gap in our workforce. Working women deserve better.” said Assemblywoman and sponsor of the bill Pamela Lampitt.

An employer who violates the law’s provisions would be liable for a civil penalty in an amount not to exceed $1,000 for the first violation, $5,000 for the second, and $10,000 for each subsequent violation. Punitive damages, a standard remedy for violations under the Law Against Discrimination, would not be available for violations falling under this bill.

The measure passed the full Assembly in March, and the Senate in June.