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Equal pay for women in New Jersey surfaced as a top priority for the state’s new Democratic governor, who signed an executive order Jan. 16 that explicitly bars state agencies and offices from asking job applicants about past wage history.
The order, which also bars the agencies from investigating applicants’ prior salaries, was signed by Gov. Phil Murphy as his first official act the day of his swearing in.
“Here and now we begin the process of bulldozing the roadblocks that have kept women from being paid fairly, that have kept many women of color from fulfilling their dreams of entering the middle class, and that have allowed our wage gap to persist,” Murphy said after signing the measure.
The executive order would apply to state agencies and departments in the executive branch of state government, according to the text of the order.
In his inaugural address, Murphy also called on the legislature to send him bills on equal pay, sick leave, and a $15 minimum hourly wage.
Legislators on both sides of the aisle pledged their support.
“The gender pay divide is something we have been trying to bridge for years in New Jersey,” Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D) said in a statement. “Now that we have an active partner in the Governor’s Office, women can expect to not only be seen, but to be heard and supported.”
Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean and Sen. Kristin M. Corrado (R) said they plan to co-sponsor “new comprehensive pay equity legislation” to support the governor’s efforts.
Gordon MacInnes, president of the progressive policy organization New Jersey Policy Perspective, in a statement called for “not only equal pay legislation, but the entire suite of policy solutions that will better foster equal opportunity and address gender-based barriers.” MacInnes encouraged, among other actions, raising the minimum wage, improving New Jersey’s paid family leave program, guaranteeing paid sick days, making child care more affordable, improving access to reproductive health care, and strengthening the safety net.
The order will go into effect Feb. 1, 2018.
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