New Jersey recently enacted a new law which would make it illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee who asked co-workers about their job titles, occupational categories, and rates of pay for purposes of determining if pay discrimination had occurred. Maine already has a similar law (26 M.R.S.A. § 628) which makes it illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee because he or she suspects his or her employer is paying him or her less than workers of the opposite sex. Some, but not all, states have similar laws and many worker advocates have urged Congress to pass similar federal legislation as part of the Paycheck Fairness Act.
Employer policies prohibiting employees from discussing their pay rates with one another oftentimes have the effect of keeping pay discrimination hidden. For instance, in Ledbetter v. Goodyear, a famous pay discrimination case that led to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, Ms. Ledbetter found out she was making less than similarly situated men years after the pay inequality began, in part, because of a policy at Goodyear which required employees to keep their rates of pay confidential.
If you suspect that you have experienced pay discrimination on the basis of your sex, you may ask what your co-workers earn to determine if you are correct. However, before you do so, you may want to contact an experienced employment lawyer to determine how best to make those inquiries.