Home>Governor>Judge dismisses AFSCME wage disparity lawsuit against Murphy administration

Gov. Phil Murphy joins members of AFSCME New Jersey Local 63 at an unfair labor practice strike in 2021. (Photo: AFSCME).

Judge dismisses AFSCME wage disparity lawsuit against Murphy administration

Lougy calls AFSCME’s arguments ‘fundamentally and irredeemably flawed’

By Joey Fox, May 17 2023 1:01 pm

A lawsuit filed by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) alleging that a pay increase for New Jersey’s correctional officers was discriminatory has been dismissed with prejudice by Superior Court Judge Robert Lougy, who found that AFSCME’s legal arguments were “fundamentally and irredeemably flawed.”

In October, AFSCME sued Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration over a bill Murphy signed in January 2022 raising correctional officer pay to $48,000, an increase Murphy said was warranted due to the challenges of the pandemic. The bill did not increase pay for any other category of government employee.

AFSCME’s lawsuit alleged that, because correctional officers are on average whiter and maler than other employees who struggled during the pandemic, the bill contributed to racial and gender wage disparities. The pay raise, the lawsuit argued, thus violated New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination.

But Lougy strongly disagreed, writing that AFSCME provided no convincing evidence that the pay increase was discriminatory – or that the governor and legislature should be impeded in their efforts to pass legislation as they see fit.

“Within its constitutional bounds, the legislature is free to do what it wants,” Lougy wrote. “It can adopt inconsistent policies. It can draw lines. It can include and it can appropriate funds on behalf of [one] interest group and not on behalf of another. That is the nature of lawmaking.”

In a brief statement, the governor’s office praised Lougy’s decision. 

“The governor’s office believes the court acted correctly in dismissing the lawsuit,” a spokesperson said.

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