Assemblywoman Pam Lampitt talks about her efforts to reduce bullying in schools.
NJ legislators target women's pay inequality
February 20, 2012
By Hugh R. Morley
Bill to address male-female inequality failed to get Senate support in 2010.
New Jersey legislators are prodding Congress into addressing what they see as the stubborn inequality, and unfairness, between men's and women's pay.
The Assembly last week overwhelmingly approved a resolution calling on Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act., which is stalled.
The federal bill would make it tougher for employers to pay women less than men, and easier for female workers to seek legal remedies if it happens.
Assemblywoman Pam Lampitt, D-Camden, who sponsored the bill, said U.S. census data show that women in New Jersey earn about 79 cents for every dollar earned by men.
"Even though we have women being educated at a much higher rate than men, the minute they walk out the [college] door, the minute they go for their first job, they are instantly paid less than men," Lampitt said.
A state Senate version of the bill is before the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee.
The federal Paycheck Fairness Act was introduced in 2009 and 2010, and failed to get the support of the Senate in November 2010, with most Democrats backing it and Republicans opposing it. Supporters reintroduced the bill last April, when President Obama said he would back it.
Opponents, including business groups, said the bill would hamstring employers in setting pay levels and make companies vulnerable to expensive and disruptive litigation over the issue.
The bill addresses the male-female pay inequality in several ways, including strengthening the ability of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to pursue discrimination cases, said Terri Boyer, executive director of the Center for Women and Work at Rutgers University.
"One of the big things that it does is prohibit employers from retaliating against workers who discuss" their salaries, she said.
The bill also requires employers to prove that a pay inequality exists for legitimate business, or job-related reasons, Boyer said.
She said studies have shown several reasons why women earn less than men, including the fact that women are "clustered" in low-paying jobs, such as child care, she said.
Women are also less likely to negotiate for a higher salary when they take a job, which depresses their salary for the future, too, Boyer said. And salaries are further depressed if women take time off to care for their children, Boyer said.
When they return to the workforce, women also may find they can't climb the corporate ladder as fast as men because employers consider them less committed to work and unable or unwilling to work long hours, Boyer said.