The public room at the new, temporary Governor’s Office was jam-packed with women, women legislators, a few men, and reporters, some consigned to sitting on the floor, waiting for Phil Murphy to appear.
In signing an executive order on pay equity for women, Murphy would be signaling that fighting gender discrimination would be a top priority.
“This is 2018, there is absolutely no reason why a woman in New Jersey working full time should be making just 82 cents to the dollar made by a male counterpart for the exact same work. And there is certainly, absolutely no reason why an African-American woman should be making less than 60 cents on the dollar, or a Latina barely able to break 50 cents on the dollar. These are disparities that exist regardless of industry and regardless or educational level,” said Murphy.
The executive order would bar state agencies from asking a job applicant about his or her salary history. That means someone underpaid from the beginning would not see that disparity forever.
“This bill is for Mama. This bill is for Aunt Henrietta. This bill is for all those women who didn’t have the power of the voice of someone powerful to speak for them and we are here,” said state Sen. Nia Gill.
The federal Lilly Ledbetter Act mandates equal pay nationally but puts a two-year limit on discrimination lawsuits. The state Legislature passed a bill that would extend that period back in time, but Gov. Christie conditionally vetoed it.
Murphy says he’ll sign it if the Legislature passes it again.
“We are going to get that piece of legislation here in New Jersey passed. To go past that two years to the Lilly Ledbetter Act does, to go back to the time the incident occurs because we need women to be paid for what they’ve worked, whether or not it was yesterday or whether or not it was five years ago. So it is vitally important that we continue this particular effort,” said Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt.
A woman named Murdina Hansen told her story of pay inequity. After 16 years as a solutions engineer at a tech company, she learned she was grossly underpaid compared to the men.
“I ended up with a 25 percent raise, an apology and he said, he further said, this will go a long way in closing the gap, which made it quite clear that it wasn’t closed, right?” said Hansen.
The signing took place at 3 p.m. Murphy was sworn in at noon. Sen. Loretta Weinberg was the chief sponsor of the bill Christie vetoed.
“What a difference three hours makes,” joked Weinberg.
Murphy said pay equity is just one piece of his larger agenda of a stronger, fairer New Jersey.