Seton Hall Law Associate Dean Charles Sullivan Talks Equal Pay Bill Signing
On April 24, 2018, NJ Governor Phil Murphy signed into law a bill promoting equal pay regardless of gender or race. Seton Hall Law Professor and Senior Associate Dean of Faculty & Finance, Charles Sullivan spoke with ROI-NJ and Law360 as a legal employment expert on the topic.
The New Jersey Senate also has advanced S559, a bill barring public and private 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.
“This will upend common employer pay practices,” Charles A. Sullivan, professor of law and senior associate dean for faculty and finance at Seton Hall Law School in Newark, said. “For example, it’s fairly common for employers to hire someone at a meaningful but small increase over prior salary. In a world where women are generally paid less than men, that means there’s a tendency to perpetuate prior discrepancies. This new law would change that.”
The most obvious thing for businesses to do, then, he said, would be to set a compensation structure before a job search begins and not inquire into the salaries of the candidates.
“This might result in more offers being turned down if the salary is too low, but it would limit liability,” Sullivan said.
Read the rest of ROI-NJ's Murphy signs equal pay law, aiming to close wage gap
Charles Sullivan, a professor at Seton Hall University School of Law who specializes in employment discrimination and other areas of employment law, agreed that people will have to “wait and see” how the courts interpret the new provisions, but praised the law’s broad reach.
The law, he said, eliminated a key “loophole” in the federal equal pay laws that allowed employers to justify lower pay by factors other than sex. The new Garden State rules narrowed the factors allowed under this exception, he said. The law specifically prevented employers from justifying a lower salary based on a person’s prior salary, Sullivan said, which often ensured women’s salaries lagged behind throughout their careers.
“I think it’s a great step forward and a big improvement on the federal Equal Pay Act,” he said of the law.
Businesses in the Garden State who want to protect themselves, he advised, should not ask about prior salary, and should determine what salary they plan to offer before starting to look at candidates.
According to estimates, women in New Jersey earn roughly 81 cents on the dollar compared to men, roughly in line with the national pay gap of about 80 cents on the dollar.
Read the rest of Law360's NJ Gov. Signs Equal Pay Bill Amid Debate Over Impact