Written by Ravi Sattiraju on March 1, 2019
On Equal Pay Day, people share the news that women make around 80 cents for every dollar that a man earns. But a new study from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research shows that the amount of money women make throughout a lifetime is actually much lower—closer to around 50% of what men make. This disparity is obviously a cause for concern for families in New Jersey, many of whom rely solely on a woman’s salary to make ends meet.
Reasons for the Disparity
The study’s authors used data from the University of Michigan to track how much women made over the past half century. What they found was startling. From 1968 to 1982, for example, women made around 19 cents for every dollar that a man made. The amount they earned relative to men increased over the years, to around 80 cents mentioned above, but are still well short of parity.
However, women were much more likely to take a year off from the labor force for family-related reasons, such as taking care of children or an elderly parent. This time off is not captured by studies that only average how much women employees make in a given year compared to men. When women take time off, their income obviously drops, but data won’t capture that unless researchers track income over several years.
By tracking how much the average woman made throughout her life, researchers found that women made far less than expected because they took so much time off from work. Furthermore, women who step away from the workforce make less going forward when they return. For example, from 2001 to 2015, women who took one year off from work earned 39% less than a woman who worked the entire 15 years. This factor compounds the earnings disparity.
New Jersey’s Response to Wage Discrimination
Our state takes wage discrimination seriously, and Governor Murphy signed one of the strongest equal pay laws in the country. Under the new law, a victim of wage discrimination can receive back pay for six years, which is 4.5 years longer than permitted under the old law. Courts will also award treble damages for any violations, so if a worker is denied $10,000 she can receive $30,000 in compensation. These changes should give employers pause before they pay workers less.
However, equal pay legislation cannot obviously reduce the wage gap that researchers have found. For one thing, it is perfectly reasonable to pay more experienced workers more than less experienced workers, and if a woman takes time off for family reasons, she will have less experience. Legislation cannot fix this dilemma.
Are You the Victim of Wage Discrimination?
If you suspect that your employer is discriminating against you, take action today. The Sattiraju Law Firm is one of the leading New Jersey employment law firms tackling employment discrimination, including discrimination that shows up in your wages.
For more information about whether you have a case, please call our New Jersey wage discrimination attorneys at 609-619-8862. You can schedule an initial consultation to discuss your case.