The Times, Trenton

Long Overdue: N.J. Finally Guarantees Women Equal Pay

The Times of Trenton — Aprl 27, 2018

Times of Trenton Editorial Board

There are precious few things all the members of the state Senate — Republicans and Democrats alike — can agree on.

But these lawmakers came together with one voice to declare that the gender-wage gap in New Jersey is dead.

Their legislation assuring that women will take home a salary equal to that of her male counterparts who do comparable work passed the Senate by a vote of 35 to 0, and the Assembly by a margin of 74 – 2.

Gov. Phil Murphy drove in the home run this week, signing the bill into law and giving our state the distinction of having one of the country's most robust pay-equity laws on the books.

Hooray and hallelujah. This is a hard-fought victory for working families, not just for women.

The new law allows women to sue for and collect triple damages if they have been unfairly compensated. It also bars companies from punishing workers who discus their salaries with colleagues, and it extends the so-called "look-back period" from two years to six.

We particularly relish the fact that the bill bears the name of Diane B. Allen, a former Republican state senator from Burlington County who fought fiercely for its passage before retiring from office last year.

Allen, a former TV news anchor who experienced wage discrimination on the job first-hand, was back in Trenton for the bill signing. Also at the ceremony was Lilly Ledbetter, whose name is on a federal pay-equity law that grew out of a court case against her employer, Goodyear Tire and Rubber.

In fully endorsing the bill on his 99th day in office, Murphy moved the state forward in a way Chris Christie refused to do during eight years in office.

Rather than seeing it as a threat to business owners, the Democratic governor hailed the bill as a tool to make the Garden State more competitive in the work world, one that has the potential to strengthen our economy in the coming years.

Dena Mottola Jaborska, associate director of New Jersey Citizen Action, an advocacy group that lobbied for the legislation, predicted that women will now have "strong tools to combat pay discrimination and recover lost wages."

For Assemblywoman and long-time supporter Pamela Lampitt (D-Burlington and Camden counties), the bill capped a 12-year effort to ensure that justice prevailed.

Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen County), who sponsored an early pay-equity bill that failed to pass Christie's muster, also has earned the right to rejoice in a battle well fought, as has the advocacy group New Jersey Working Families Alliance.

Easing the economic burden on families, putting New Jersey at the forefront of labor practices and creating a more equitable environment — all with the stroke of a pen and a decade of sweat.

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