Court Rules the New Jersey Equal Pay Act Does Not Apply Retroactively

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In 2018, the New Jersey governor signed the Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act (NJEPA) into law, thereby modifying the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination by requiring equal pay across all of the protected classes. In part, the NJEPA prohibits gender-based discrimination and retaliatory pay practices. Recently, the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey analyzed whether the NJEPA applies retroactively, ultimately ruling that it does not. If you are the victim of gender-based discrimination or retaliatory pay practices it is vital to consult a skilled knowledgeable New Jersey employment discrimination attorney to discuss your options for seeking compensation.

Facts of the Case

Allegedly, the plaintiff worked as a human resources manager at the defendant’s office from June 2013 until she was terminated on April 5, 2018. The NJEPA was signed into law on April 24, 2018 but was not effective until July 1, 2018. On July 27, 2018, the plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the defendant, alleging gender discrimination and retaliation in violation of the NJEPA. Specifically, the plaintiff alleged that while she was employed by the defendant, she was paid a rate of compensation that was substantially less than the rate that was paid to her male counterparts, solely due to the fact that she was a female. She also alleged that the defendant retaliated against her for engaging in activities protected by the NJEPA. The defendant removed the case to federal court, and filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s complaint, arguing that the NJEPA was not in effect at the time of the alleged discrimination. The court granted the motion, and the plaintiff appealed.

Retroactivity of the NJEPA

On appeal, the plaintiff argued that the NJEPA should be applied retroactively. Upon review, the court noted that the rules of statutory construction generally do not favor the retroactive application of new laws. To overcome the presumption against retroactivity, the party seeking retroactive application of a law must show that the legislature intended the law to be applied retroactively and that said application would not cause manifest injustice or unconstitutionally hinder a party’s rights. Further, a statute should be applied retroactively when a retroactive application is expressly or implicitly intended, when an amendment is curative, or when the parties’ expectations warrant a retroactive application.

In the subject case, the court found that the plain language of the NJEPA and the delayed enactment made it clear that it was meant to be applied prospectively rather than retroactively. Moreover, the court found that a retroactive application would not be curative, because the NJEPA was not meant to amend a prior statute. The court also noted that the reasonable expectations of the parties did not warrant a retroactive application. As such, the court affirmed the dismissal of the plaintiff’s complaint.

Meet with a Seasoned New Jersey Employment Discrimination Attorney

It is unlawful for your employer to discriminate against you based on your gender. If you believe you are the victim of gender discrimination you should meet with a seasoned employment discrimination attorney as soon as possible to discuss your case and what damages you may be able to recover. The skilled New Jersey employment discrimination attorneys of the Jaffe Glenn Law Group will work diligently to help you seek the full amount of compensation you may be able to recover. You can contact us at 201-687-9977 or through our form online form to schedule a confidential and free consultation.