Category: Discrimination

Ninth Circuit Holds Salary History Does Not Justify Wage Differences Between Male and Female Employees

In a precedential en banc opinion, Rizo v. Yovino, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit determined that an employee’s prior salary cannot justify a wage differential between male and female employees under the Equal Pay Act. Significantly, this decision overrules established prior Ninth Circuit precedent that an employee’s prior salary constitutes a “factor other than sex” under the Act upon which a wage differential may be based. Background The Plaintiff, Aileen Rizo, was hired by the Fresno County Office of Education in 2009 as a math consultant. At the time of her hire, her starting salary was determined in accordance with Fresno’s standard operating policy which provided that the salary for all new hires would be set by adding five percent to their previous salary. In or about 2012, Rizo learned that male colleagues who were hired after her were earning more than she. In 2014, Rizo filed a lawsuit against Jim Yovino in his official capacity as the Superintendent of the Fresno County Office of Education alleging violations of the Equal Pay Act, Title VII, and California law. At the District Court, Fresno admitted that it paid Rizo less than her male colleagues for the same work, but argued that the pay differential was permissible based on the Equal Pay Act’s...

New Jersey Legislature Passes Sweeping Pay Equity Legislation

Yesterday, the New Jersey Senate and Assembly passed comprehensive pay equity legislation. The legislation passed both houses with significant bi-partisan support and it is expected that Governor Murphy will soon sign the legislation into law. Once in effect, the legislation, which amends the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“the LAD”), will be the most wide-ranging pay equity law in the United States. Significantly, unlike most pay equity laws passed in recent years by other states which target unlawful pay discrimination of women, the New Jersey law will prohibit pay discrimination of employees in any protected class. Specifically, the legislation makes it an unlawful employment practice to discriminate against a member of any protected class by compensating the employee at a lesser rate of pay, benefits, or other forms of compensation than an employee who is not a member of the protected class for “substantially similar work.” The “substantially similar” standard, which diverges from the “equal work” standard of the federal Equal Pay Act, mirrors the California Fair Pay Act. Moreover, the legislation provides that comparisons of wage rates shall be based on wage rates in all of an employer’s operations or facilities regardless of where located. An employer will be permitted to pay a different rate to an employee if it can show that the...

Gov. Murphy’s First Executive Order Prohibits State Government from Asking Applicants about Salary History

Governor Phil Murphy has signed an executive order which bars state workers from asking job applicants seeking positions with the state about their previous salaries in his first official act after his swearing-in on January 16, 2018. State entities may now only inquire as to an applicant’s past salary history after the entity has made a conditional offer of employment, which includes an explanation of the compensation package being offered to the applicant. The goal of the executive order is to eliminate wage inequalities that result from female employees who accept lower starting salaries and then remain on a lower compensation track, with pay disparities compounding over time. Significantly, at the signing ceremony, the Governor stated that he would sign a bill that extended these same provisions to private sector employers which the legislative sponsors vowed to move quickly to his desk. In fact, legislation has already been introduced that prohibits an employer from inquiring about the salary history of an applicant. Assembly Bill 1094 was introduced on January 9, 2018 by Assemblywoman Joanne Downey (D-11) and referred to the Assembly Labor Committee. Senate Bill 559 was introduced by Senator Nia Gill (D-34) on January 9, 2018 and referred to the Senate Labor Committee. The legislation, described by legislative sponsors as an effort to promote...

Tax Bill Effects the Use of Nondisclosure Provisions in Settlements of Sexual Harassment and Sexual Abuse Claims

While the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (“the Act”), signed into law today, has received considerable media coverage, a provision included in the Act that affects the ability of employers to deduct settlement payments and attorney’s fees for claims involving sexual assault or sexual harassment has received little attention. Nonetheless, this provision will have a significant impact on how employers resolve claims of sexual harassment and sexual abuse. Specifically, the Act provides that any settlement or payment related to claims of sexual harassment or sexual abuse may not be deducted as a business expense if the payments are subject to a nondisclosure agreement. The Act also provides that any attorney’s fees incurred related to such a settlement with a nondisclosure agreement may not be deducted. The new law applies to “any settlement or payment related claims of sexual harassment or sexual abuse” whether or not a lawsuit has actually been filed. Importantly, these provisions are effective immediately, and thus all payments made after the effective date of the Act in connection with the settlement of a sexual harassment or a sexual assault claim are subject to these new provisions. Read literally, the new law precludes employers from deducting the amounts of such settlements for payments made after the effective date of the Act even if...

The Push for Pay Equity Legislation in New Jersey

Equal pay for equal work is by no means a new concept. Achieving pay equity, defined as eliminating sex (and other) discrimination in the wage-setting system, has been debated for decades. Recently, however, pay equity has become a significant public issue, prompting many state and local governments to enact legislation aimed at eliminating pay disparities, with a strong focus on closing the gender wage gap. To date, attempts to pass pay equity legislation in New Jersey have been unsuccessful. However, with the recent election of Phil Murphy as governor, pay equity legislation in New Jersey appears almost certain. In this recent article published by the New Jersey Law Journal, Suzanne Herrmann Brock, Elizabeth Cowit, and Brittany E. Grierson provide insight into the most recent developments in state and local pay equity laws and discuss legislation on the horizon for New Jersey.

The Third Circuit Goes Its Own Way on ADEA Disparate Impact Claims

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) protects from discrimination of employees who are at least 40 years of age. Recently, in Karlo v. Pittsburgh Glass Works, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit departed company with three of its sister Circuits by holding that plaintiffs asserting a claim of “disparate impact” under the ADEA may establish a disparate impact with comparisons between subgroups of employees and need not show that a challenged employment practice has had an adverse impact on employees 40 years of age or older compared to its impact on employees under 40. Thus, the Court permitted to go forward with a disparate impact claim based on a comparison between employees at least 50 years of age with employees under 50. The decision will have a profound impact on employers’ assessments of their potential ADEA liability for disparate impact claims and on the way ADEA disparate impact claims are litigated in the Third Circuit. Background To establish a claim of disparate impact discrimination under the ADEA, a plaintiff must show, through statistical evidence, that the employers implemented a facially age-neutral employment practice that fell more harshly on the protected group. If this showing is made, the employer can defeat the claim by demonstrating that the practice in question is...

New Jersey’s Legislature Attempts to Override Governor’s Objections to “Equal Pay” Bill

The sponsors of pay equity legislation passed by the New Jersey Senate and Assembly earlier this year have announced that the State Senate will attempt to override Governor Christie’s veto of the bill on December 19, 2016. Senate Bill 992/Assembly Bill 2750 would amend the Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”) to promote gender pay equality. The New Jersey bill follows a trend of recently enacted state laws, in California, New York, Maryland, and Massachusetts, that aim to make it easier for plaintiffs to bring pay equity claims and subject employers to potentially greater damages.

NJ Legislators Look to Prohibit Asking Applicants about Salary History

The New Jersey Legislature is poised to take up another thorny issue for employers, salary history. Described by legislative sponsors as an effort to promote pay equity, the legislation would amend the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination to bar employers from asking job applicants about their salary history, or relying on it to determine salary at any stage in the hiring process. Two separate pieces of legislation have been introduced that prohibit an employer from inquiring about the salary history of an applicant. Assembly Bill 4119 was introduced on September 15, 2016 and referred to the Assembly Labor Committee. Senate Bill 2536 was introduced on September 15, 2016 and referred to the Senate Labor Committee.

EEOC Issues New Enforcement Guidance on Retaliation

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), retaliation has become the most frequently alleged basis of discrimination of all charges received by the EEOC. In light of this, and after allowing for public comment on the EEOC’s proposed enforcement guidance issued earlier this year, on August 29, 2016, the EEOC issued its new Enforcement Guidance on Retaliation and Related Issues. This replaces the EEOC’s Compliance Manual Section 8: Retaliation, which was issued in 1998. The enforcement guidance sets forth the EEOC’s position on retaliation and addresses retaliation under each of the statutes enforced by the EEOC by providing a number of illustrative examples. Helpful to employers, the enforcement guidance concludes by providing employers “promising practices” to reduce the risk of violations. A general outline of the enforcement guidance follows.

NJ Supreme Court Broadens Scope of LAD’s “Marital Status” Protection

On June 21, 2016, in Smith v. Millville Rescue Squad, the Supreme Court of New Jersey addressed the scope of the marital status protection afforded to employees by the Law Against Discrimination (LAD). The Court ruled that the LAD’s marital status provision is not limited to the state of being single or married but protects employees who have announced “they will marry, have separated, have initiated divorce proceedings or have obtained a divorce.”