Despite laws prohibiting pay discrimination based on race, gender, national origin, or ethnicity, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD), significant wage gaps persist between white male employees and other demographics.
Workplace Discrimination and Inequality
A 2016 study found that one in five black workers reported experiencing discrimination in the workplace. This discrimination can take the form of pay disparity as well as less quantifiable actions like being passed over for promotions or given less desirable assignments.
As of 2015, black hourly workers earned, on average, 73% of the hourly earnings of white men; Hispanic men earned 69%. These disparities have remained essentially unchanged since 1980. Although women of color have made significant advances over that time, black women still earn only 65 cents for every dollar earned by a white man (up from 56 cents in 1980). Asian women earned 87 cents per dollar compared to white male workers, while Hispanic women earned 58 cents per dollar (up from 53 cents in 1980). Asian men, on the other hand, averaged 114% of what white men earned per hour ($35).
The disparities persist even among better educated workers. Black and Hispanic men with college degrees earned roughly 80% of what their white male peers earned per hour ($25 and $26 vs. $32, respectively) in 2015. College-educated Asian women earned an average of $27 per hour, while black women with college degrees earned $23 per hour and Hispanic college-educated women only $22.
New Jersey Leads the Way with Stronger Anti-Discrimination Laws
To combat this persistent problem, many states and some cities have passed laws requiring equal pay for equal work—“pay equity” laws. These laws generally require that employers pay workers equally for jobs that require equal skill, effort, and responsibility and that are performed under similar working conditions, unless the employer can prove that the difference in pay is based on a system based on seniority, merit, productivity, or a bona fide factor other than sex or race. Most of these bills focus on gender equality, but some, including California’s, specifically address racial disparities, as well.
Last year, New Jersey passed the most extensive pay equity bill in the country. The Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act bolsters the existing New Jersey Law Against Discrimination protections, specifically requiring equal pay for employees who perform “substantially similar work.” The amendment specifically prohibits wage discrimination on the basis of race as well as gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, nationality, disability, and pregnancy. It also includes additional remedies for individuals to obtain compensation for past discrimination, allowing aggrieved individuals to sue for up to six years of improperly withheld back pay.
If you believe you have been discriminated against in the workplace because of your race, gender, ethnicity, or national origin, talk to an experienced employment attorney. The lawyers at The Mark Law Firm can evaluate your situation and help you file a complaint with the EEOC or pursue legal action if appropriate. Contact us today for a no-obligation consultation.