Murphy’s first executive order targets gender pay gap in New Jersey

Gov. Phil Murphy discusses goals on Tuesday at the War Memorial during his inaugural speech.

In his first official act after being sworn in, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed an executive order Tuesday afternoon with the goal of combating gender inequality and promoting equal pay for women in New Jersey.

“Today, New Jersey takes the first meaningful step towards gender equity and fighting the gender pay gap,” Murphy said. “This concept is a cornerstone of our effort to build a stronger and fairer New Jersey, and it is why I am making this the focus of my first executive order as governor.”

Under the executive order, state agencies and offices are prohibited from asking a job applicant for their past wage history, or researching the prior salaries of their applicants. State agencies will be forbidden from making inquires about a current or prior employer or searching public records databases to ascertain an applicant’s current or previous salary.  Agencies must take reasonable measures to avoid inadvertently discovering the salary history while gathering other information about the applicant. Any unintentionally discovered information concerning an applicant’s salary history may not be used by a state agency or department  in any employment decision.

Nothing in the order prevents a job applicant from volunteering information about compensation, but an applicant’s refusal to volunteer compensation information can’t be considered in any employment decisions. Any applicant who is improperly asked about his or her salary history can report the violation to the Governor’s Office of Employee Relations, which will investigate the allegation and take appropriate remedial measures.

Murphy said the changes will ensure that state employees receive salaries that are commensurate with their skills, qualifications, and experience.

Asking job applicants about their salary histories inappropriately perpetuates the wage gap by allowing prospective employers to offer lower salaries to women than they otherwise would, women’s rights advocates say.

Murphy urged the New Jersey State Legislature to send legislation to his desk banning the practice of asking for a job applicant’s wage history statewide, and he pledged to sign it.

In New Jersey, women working full-time earn, on average 82 cents for every dollar earned by a man in a full-time position. That disparity worsens to 58 cents for black women and to 43 cents for Latinas. According to research from the National Partnership for Women and Families, wage inequality leads to a combined loss of $32.5 billion per year.

“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.

New York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco, California, Massachusetts, Delaware, and Oregon already have enacted policies that prohibit employers from asking about prospective employees’ salary histories.