NJ ‘equal pay’ compromise faces last stand for 2017
Gov. Chris Christie has been vetoing various versions of equal-pay bills sent to him by the Legislature since 2012, and lawmakers haven’t been able to defeat those vetoes.
He’s willing to enact the latest proposal, negotiated with him by Sen. Diane Allen, R-Burlington, but it’s not clear Democrats want to advance it.
The bill would enable women who successfully sue for pay discrimination to get double damages, allow repayment in some cases to go back decades and require businesses to retain certain information. The data wouldn’t be reported to the state, but Labor Department investigators would have access to it.
“It puts together a lot of pieces that I think will make it a lot better for women,” Allen said.
“And while it surely isn’t the perfect bill – I guess there are no such things, really – it will move things forward for women,” she said.
Allen, who is retiring from the Senate in January after 22 years in the Legislature, has been working for months to find a path forward for an equal-pay bill. She met three times with Christie, on top of many talks with his chief counsel, and negotiated with the idea’s chief Democratic sponsor, Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen.
Christie said he would sign Allen’s bill, if it were to pass the Legislature.
“You know I normally don’t answer those questions, but because it was the product of specific conversations not with my staff, but with me, I’m willing to say that I would sign it if Sen. Allen’s legislation passed,” Christie said.
Weinberg isn’t on board with the current bill, however. She told Politico New Jersey her main concern has to do with the standards under which a woman could file a pay-discrimination claim.
Allen says they’re very close and hasn’t given up on reaching a deal.
“Loretta and I had gotten to the point where we had agreed between ourselves to everything except for one line, and it was a line that the governor had given in on a lot of things, but that was one line that he was not willing to give in on,” Allen said.
Allen is scheduled to meet Monday with Senate President Steve Sweeney, then a few days later with Weinberg.
She said Democrats shouldn’t wait until 2018 in hopes that Phil Murphy gets elected governor and enacts the version of the plan Christie conditionally vetoed, last year’s S992, which among other differences allows women who prove wage discrimination to receive triple damages.
“I fear that what people are thinking is, ‘Well, my goodness, if this fellow Murphy becomes governor, he’s going to give us anything and everything that we want.’ And that’s certainly what he’s promising. But guess what? He may not become governor,” Allen said.
“Let’s move forward,” Allen said. “I think Kim Guadagno could be happy with my bill. Let’s get it through. Let’s do it now.”