By: Chantal N. Guerriero, Esq. and Ty Hyderally, Esq.
August 13, 2020 was Black Women’s Equal Pay Day. The day signified the wage gap between black women and non-Hispanic men in the U.S. Specifically, each year, Black Women’s Equal Pay Day measures how far into the following year a black woman must work in order to earn the same salary that her non-Hispanic male counterpart earned the previous year. According to U.S. Census data, Black women earned approximately sixty-two percent (62%) of what their non-Hispanic male counterparts earned in the year 2019. And if you’re counting, that means that it took black women approximately seven months into 2020 to catch up to their counterparts in 2019. The topic serves as a reminder that equal work does not always amount to equal pay. To compound the issue, certain employees already earning less in wages may also fall victim to their employer’s violations of applicable wage and hour laws or even the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”). This prompts the question of what, if any legal recourse one might have when their employer fails to pay them proper wages for their work.
New Jersey’s Wage and Hour Law sets forth the minimum wage at which employees must be paid by their employers. Currently, as of January 1, 2020, the minimum wage in New Jersey is set at $11.00 per hour, and will increase by one dollar ($1.00) each upcoming year. Further, the Wage and Hour Law mandates that employees who are “non-exempt” must be paid wages of one and a half times their regular rate of pay when they work in excess of forty (40) hours per week. Examples of non-exempt employees include servers, retails associates, cashiers, and custodians.
Further, the New Jersey Wage Payment Law (“WPL”), sets forth the time and mode of payment that employers are required to follow. Specifically, the WPL requires that employees be paid at least twice each month on regular pay days designated in advance. Moreover, if a payday falls on a day on which the employer’s business is closed, then employees must be paid on the preceding day. While there are certain exceptions to these requirements for employees in certain job positions, by and large, New Jersey employers must adhere to the above provisions of the WPL and the Wage and Hour Law.
On the federal level, the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), also establishes minimum wage requirements, overtime pay, and the requirement that employees maintain records to reflect the amount that their employees are being paid. There also is a rebuttable presumption against employers who fail to maintain such adequate employee records.
Last, but not least, the New Jersey Equal Pay Act prohibits employers from paying employees in a protected class, such as race and gender, less than their co-workers who fall outside of that protected class and perform substantially similar work. Under certain circumstances, this may establish evidence of a discrimination claim. For example, if several employees of a certain race, heritage or national origin claimed they were being paid less than their Caucasian co-workers who had similar qualifications and experience and were performing the same work, the grounds for a race discrimination claim may be established. Of course, every case is fact-sensitive and highly dependent on the unique set of circumstances presented. If you feel that your employer may be in violation of one of the aforementioned laws, you should seek legal advice in order to determine whether you have legal rights and remedies.
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