As reported by NJ.com, Governor Chris Christie has vetoed SB 992, a bill which sought to bar gender-based pay discrimination. A full text of the proposed legislation may be read here. The bill would have amended the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination by adding language prohibiting an employer from paying one gender less than the other for “substantially similar” work. Employers would be permitted to pay workers of different sexes doing similar jobs in an unequal manner only if they could demonstrate that the unequal treatment was justified based on factors such as training, education, experience, or job performance. The bill also contained a triple damages provision for employees who won cases brought under the law, and a transparency provision mandating that businesses who contract with the State file equal pay information to ensure compliance with the statute.
Governor Christie, in his veto message, criticized the law as “depart[ing] significantly from well-established law” and stated that the law would make New Jersey “very business unfriendly.” The bill’s main sponsor, Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen), has signaled that she may attempt a veto override, in that the bill passed by decisive margins in both houses — 28-4 in the Senate and 54-14-6 in the Assembly.
Pay equity is an important issue to New Jersey’s professional workforce. There is no question that women and men should be paid the same for the same or similar work. There is also no question that this bill would have helped New Jersey to achieve its goal of eradicating discrimination from the workplace.