Pay Discrimination Case by Seton Hall Professors Must Go Forward, Says NJ Supreme County

In Alexander v. Seton Hall University, the Supreme Court of New Jersey ruled today that women who seek equal pay filed their lawsuit in time under the statute of limitations.  The defense sought to stop the women professors from asserting their claims because they allegedly should have known they were not being paid the same as men going back to when they started their jobs 30 years ago.  That 30 years of notice, the Defendants argued, violated the two-year statute of limitations.  The Defendants based their argument on the United States Supreme Court’s Equal Pay Act decision in Ledbetter which banned a lawsuit under very similar circumstances.

But the New Jersey Supreme Court rejected the Defendants’ argument.  It ruled that each paycheck is a new violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, therefore, the women professors could seek lost pay going back the full two-years of the statute of limitations.

The Alexander decision is notable for another reason.  The opinion clearly states that the New Jersey courts will (and must) interpret the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD) under New Jersey case law – not federal law.  Toward that end, the Alexander opinion eloquently notes, “The courts below succumbed to the draw of aligning our LAD jurisprudence to that which was developing under federal case law for wage discrimination claims. We do not see the allure of that congruity, not in respect of the case as it presents itself now, or as it stood prior to the time Congress altered the federal landscape.”

Date: 11/23/10 – Paul Castronovo – Castronovo & McKinney