Equal Pay Day: N.J. is middle of the pack when it comes to gender pay gap

The National Partnership for Women and Families released Monday a study in honor of Equal Pay Day, showing how full-time female employees in New Jersey are typically paid just 81 cents for every dollar paid to a man, resulting in a yearly pay difference of $11,737.

That means that the gender pay gap causes New Jersey women to lose a combined total of nearly $34 billion each year.

According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the state ranks 31st in terms of having the largest cents-on-the-dollar pay gap in the nation, with New Jersey faring just slightly better than the nationwide average of 79 cents on the dollar.

While the largest gaps are present in Louisiana and Utah — with the smallest gaps present in New York, California and Florida — New Jersey’s pay gaps range from 68 cents-on-the-dollar in the state’s 7th Congressional District (which includes all of Hunterdon County and parts of Essex, Morris, Somerset, Union and Warren counties) to 88 cents-on-the-dollar in the state’s 10th Congressional District (which includes portions of Essex, Hudson and Union counties, including the city of Newark).

Furthermore, black women in New Jersey make just 57 cents-on-the-dollar and Latina women just 42 cents-on-the-dollar in comparison to white men, with nationwide averages for these demographics at 63 cents-on-the-dollar and 54 cents-on-the-dollar.

According to the study, if the wage gap were to be closed, women working full time in New Jersey would, on average, be able to afford 87 more weeks of food for their families; five more months of mortgage and utility payments; nearly one to two additional years of tuition and fees for public universities or community colleges; more than nine additional months of rent; or more than 13 more months of child care annually.

“Equal Pay Day is a disturbing reminder that women overall have had to work more than three months into 2018 just to catch up with what men were paid in 2017, and black women and Latinas must work considerably further into the year,” Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women and Families, said in a statement. “The wage gap cannot be explained by women’s choices. It’s clear that discrimination contributes to it — and equally clear that it’s causing grave harm to women, families and the country.

“Lawmakers have not done nearly enough to end wage discrimination based on gender and race; to end sexual harassment, which impedes women’s job advancement; to stop discrimination against pregnant women; to advance paid family and medical leave and paid sick days; and to increase access to high-quality, affordable reproductive health care. If our country is to thrive, we must root out bias in wages, reject outdated stereotypes and stop penalizing women for having children and caring for their families.”

Ness added how state lawmakers can help address the wage gap by passing laws that prohibit employers from asking about salary history and protect employees from retaliation if they do discuss pay.

In fact, New Jersey’s Legislature passed and sent to Gov. Phil Murphy the Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act (S104), to prohibit unequal pay for similar work and allow employees who have been discriminated against to receive up to six years of back pay. Murphy is expected to sign the bill within the coming weeks.

Additionally, the New Jersey Senate has advanced S559, a bill barring employers from asking job applicants about their salary histories, that Murphy also is expected to sign into law if it passes. In fact, as his first official act as governor, Murphy signed a similar executive order for state agencies.

“The gender-based wage gap results in staggering losses that make it harder for women, in New Jersey and across the country, to pay for food and shelter, child care, college tuition, birth control and other health care,” Vicki Shabo, vice president of the National Partnership for Workplace Policies and Strategies, said in a statement. “We urgently need public policies that improve women’s access to decent-paying jobs, provide the support women need to stay in the workforce and advance in their jobs, and ensure fair and nondiscriminatory treatment wherever women work and whatever jobs they hold.

“We need the (President Donald) Trump administration to help solve this problem rather than exacerbate it. We ask the administration to immediately stop blocking the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission from implementing an equal pay initiative aimed at identifying and helping root out pay discrimination.”