New Jersey cemented a place in history books Tuesday after Governor Phil Murphy signed the most sweeping equal pay legislation in the nation.

The new law cracks down on workplace discrimination, requiring equal pay for “substantially similar work.” Though New Jersey already had equal pay laws in place, the bill — also called the “Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act” — amends and strengthens the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination.

Not only does the bill explicitly prohibit wage discrimination on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, nationality, disability, and pregnancy, it also creates a path for redress for those who have been discriminated against in the past. Employers are also prohibited from cutting the wages of higher-paid staff in order to make salaries comparable.

Women who seek damages in court would be allowed to recoup lost wages for up to six years — three times longer than the federal law’s two-year cap.

The bill is being celebrated as a win for women and a major step toward closing the gender pay gap.

“Today, we are sending a beacon far and wide to women across the Garden State and in America, the only factors to determine a worker’s wages should be intelligence, experience and capacity to do the job,” Murphy said upon signing the bill. “Pay equity will help us in building a stronger, fairer New Jersey.”

In 2016, the average woman in New Jersey earned 82 cents for every dollar a man was paid, according to the US Census Bureau. This was on par with the national gender wage gap. The disparity was substantially worse among men and women of color, with black women in the state making just 58 cents for every dollar paid to white men, and Latina women earning only 43 cents, the National Partnership for Women and Families reported.

Read more on nj.com.

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