New Mexico has made great strides in recent years in advancing pay equity for women. According to a September 2013 AAUW study, New Mexico now ranks 15th in the U.S. for women’s pay equity. However, there is still a lot of work left to guarantee that women receive the same pay for doing the same work as men. As of 2012, according to the National Partnership for Women and Families, women in New Mexico are paid 79 cents for every dollar paid to men, amounting to a yearly gap of $8,789 between full-time working men and women in the state. Women of color experience even greater disparities, with African American women earning just 69 cents for every dollar paid to men, and Hispanic women being paid just 66 cents for every dollar paid to men in New Mexico.
In 2013, the Southwest Women’s Law Center was instrumental in advocating for the passage of New Mexico’s Fair Pay for Women Act, N.M.S.A 1978, § 28-23-1 et seq. The Southwest Women’s Law Center, together with the Interfaith Worker Justice-NM and the New Mexico Women’s Agenda, worked to ensure that New Mexico now falls in line with 43 other states in passing a new law that protects fair pay for women. The legislation expands upon federal laws to protect women’s rights to be paid equal wages for equal work and creates a state-based remedy for women who discover they have been paid less than their male co-workers for performing the same work.
What is the New Mexico Fair Pay for Women Act?
House Bill 216, known as the New Mexico Fair Pay for Women Act, N.M.S.A 1978, § 28-23-1 et seq., is a new state law that protects people from sex-based wage discrimination. It was signed into law by Governor Martinez in March of 2013 and expands upon federal wage-discrimination law under the Equal Pay Act.
What does the Act do?
This Act prohibits employers (with more than 4 employees) from paying an employee less than someone of the opposite sex when they are performing the “same work.” The law defines “same work” as work that requires the equal skill, effort and responsibility performed under similar working conditions.
What kind of proof do I need to show that my employer violates this act?
An employee needs only to prove that they were making less than someone of the opposite sex for the same work. (Please see the entry above).
Does this Act apply both men and women who are paid differently for the same work?
Yes. This Act protects anyone, male or female, from sex-based wage-discrimination.
If I report that my employer violated this Act and paid me less what will happen?
Your employer is legally prohibited from retaliating against you. This Act prohibits your employer from firing, demoting, denying a promotion, or doing anything else to discriminate against you for filing a complaint under this Act.
Are there any reasons that an employer can pay someone at a higher rate than another person?
Yes. An employer may have a system that pays staff based on seniority, merit, or some other system that measures earning based on quantity or quality of work.
Can my employer reduce my wages to be in compliance with this act?
No. Your employer cannot and should not reduce your wages or anyone else’s wages to comply with this Act.
Can I file a complaint against my employer if I agreed to a certain wage but then find out someone of the opposite sex is making more than me for the same work?
Yes. You can file a complaint even though you initially agreed to the wage. Your employer cannot use your agreement to be paid a certain wage as a defense to the violation of this Act.
What are my options for filing a complaint against my employer?
You can bring a complaint against your employer for a violation of this Act directly to court. You also have the option of filing a complaint with the New Mexico Human Right’s Bureau. You can find more information about filing a complaint with New Mexico’s Human Rights Bureau here.
How much does the complaint cost to file in court?
You do not have to pay any filing fees to file a complaint.
By when do I have to file a complaint? (OR How much time do I have to file a complaint?)
You have two years from the last date of your employment to bring a complaint under this Act.
Can I hire an attorney?
Yes, you can hire an attorney. It is recommended that you seek an attorney’s advice first to determine if you have a valid claim.
If I am successful with my claim what happens?
If you are successful, you may get money back for the unpaid wages you are due (up to six years). If your employer has retaliated against you, a court may act to help you get back to where you were before your employer retaliated against you. For example, a court may order your employer to rehire you to your former position if you were wrongfully fired, or promoted, if you were wrongfully denied a promotion. How the court acts will depend on the circumstances of your case. The court may also order your employer to pay your attorney’s fees.
Is the employer required to do anything else if they lose in court?
Under certain circumstances, a court may award you more money to punish the employer if they have knowingly discriminated against you. The employer may also be required to post a notice in their business that they have violated the Act.
When does this law take effect?
This law became effective on July 1, 2013.
To see the full bill click here:
For more information about the SWLC’s past work on equal pay and federal initiatives, click here.
Questions about the New Mexico Fair Pay for Women Act? Contact us.