May 5, 2015

Assembly Legislation Helps Women and Families, Continues Families First Agenda
Legislative Package Includes Measures to Raise Minimum Wage and Help Working Families

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and members of the Assembly Majority today announced the passage of a legislative package to assist women and working families, continuing the Assembly's commitment to New York families.

"The Assembly has a long history of fighting for women and working families, and today's legislation continues that legacy," said Speaker Heastie. "Women make up approximately half the workforce, and women and working mothers are an essential part of New York's economy. Discrimination in the workplace, unfair pay practices - these are problems that not only affect women, but affect us all."

The legislation includes a measure that would raise the minimum wage to $10.50 per hour beginning Dec. 31, 2016, which would then increase to $11.55 on Dec. 31, 2017 and to $12.60 per hour on Dec. 31, 2018 (A.7257, Titus).

It would also create a minimum wage of $12.50 per hour for New York City, Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester counties beginning Dec. 31, 2016, increasing to $13.75 beginning December 31, 2017 and again to $15.00 per hour starting Dec. 31, 2018.

The state tipped wage would increase to $8.75 per hour - $10.40 per hour for New York City, Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester counties - beginning Dec. 31, 2016. This would rise to $9.65 per hour - $11.45 per hour for New York City, Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester counties - on Dec. 31, 2017, and $10.50 per hour and $12.50 per hour respectively on December 31, 2018. The state minimum and tipped wages would be indexed to the rate of inflation beginning in 2019.

Assemblymember Michele Titus said "Too many New Yorkers work full time but still struggle to make ends meet. That is simply unacceptable. Many minimum wage workers are not even able to afford basic necessities like food and shelter, and the majority of minimum wage earners are women. All workers deserve to be paid a living wage - male or female."

Additionally, the legislative package includes measures that would prohibit discrimination based on familial status (A.6183, Russell) and that would require reasonable accommodation for pregnant employees (A.4272, Gunther). These measures would help to ensure that employees are not forced to choose between continuing their career and starting a family. Also included is legislation that would strengthen protections against sexual harassment in the workplace (A.5360, Galef).

Assemblymember Addie Russell said "In our society, we have protections based on creed, color, race, and many other factors that make up an individual, but workers are not protected from discrimination based on their familial status. Families are the building blocks of society and if a parent is precluded from employment due to having children, it weakens our society as a whole. Today, the Assembly ensured that no matter one's familial status, they will not be discriminated against and that they will be judged on their qualifications."

Assemblymember Aileen Gunther, chair of the Subcommittee on Women's Health, said "Women have the unique privilege of carrying and giving birth to our future generations, yet existing laws do not provide adequate protections for pregnant workers or those who have recently given birth. This legislation would require employers to provide a reasonable accommodation for pregnancy-related conditions, unless doing so would create an undue hardship, so that all women can continue to work without putting the health or wellbeing of themselves or their baby at risk."

Assemblymember Sandy Galef said "Sexual harassment disproportionately affects women in the workplace. However, many are unable to file a complaint because employers with fewer than four employees are exempt under current law," "With over 60 percent of private businesses falling under this exemption, we are allowing discriminatory practices to go unchecked. This bill would amend the law to protect employees from sexual harassment regardless of the size of the workplace and would help New York women get the equality they deserve."

The Assembly also passed legislation to expand access to child care for working families, including a measure that would require local social services districts to provide a child care subsidy for parents who work overnight and have children that are not yet in school, so that children can be cared for during the day (A.775, Jaffee).

Assemblymember Donna Lupardo said "For countless families, access to child care is out of reach. This makes it all the more difficult to find and keep employment. Quality, affordable child care is essential for working parents whose children have not begun school."

Assemblymember Ellen Jaffee said "Child care is a basic need for many families. For a large number of working parents, not having access to child care often means they cannot work and cannot put food on the table. Providing these families with child care assistance allows struggling parents who work overnight to keep their jobs while knowing their children are being cared for."

The series of bills also includes measures that would:

Today's legislative package builds on past Assembly legislation to put New York families first. Earlier this year, the Assembly passed legislation to combat pay inequality, including The New York State Fair Pay Act, which would prohibit wage discrimination based on gender and would prohibit employers from barring discussion of wages among employees. The Assembly also passed a measure that would ensure that the equal pay for equal work protections encompass public employees in New York State.

Assemblymember Michaelle Solages said "Working families rely on child care, and often when a parent loses a job, they also lose access to child care. Looking for a job is time-consuming and can be very difficult for parents. To qualify for unemployment insurance, claimants need to submit proof of their search for work. The need to care for a child should be taken into account for parents who are receiving unemployment insurance benefits while looking for a new job."

George Gresham, president of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, said "The 250,000 New York State healthcare workers of 1199SEIU applaud this legislative package which will provide urgently needed support for working families. Raising the minimum wage, protecting against discrimination based on gender and familial status, expanding childcare - this is the kind of bold, progressive legislation that we need to support working people and address the out of control income inequality in our state. This legislative package is one more vital step towards ensuring all New Yorkers have security, dignity and the opportunity to build a better future."

Mario Cilento, president of the New York State AFL-CIO, said "We applaud Speaker Heastie, Labor Chair Titus, and the democratic conference for recognizing that working families are struggling to balance work and child care on incomes that are below the poverty level. We have the opportunity to be at the forefront of an issue that can make a real difference in the lives of low wage workers struggling to make ends meet. Raising the minimum wage is among the important steps that must be taken to ensure workers have a better chance to improve their lives and the lives of their families."

Corinne Carey, co-chair of the Women's Equality Coalition, said "Today's vote by our Assembly members marks an important moment for women and families across New York State. We have fought long and hard to extend these necessary protections so that our state law reflects the strength and complexity of women's lives today. New York can and should be a leader for women's rights again and we commend the Assembly for standing up for women so they can more fully and equally participate in society."

Donna Lieberman, executive director of the NYCLU, said "Today's announcement is a welcome step toward equality for all of New York's 10 million mothers, daughters and wives - we applaud our legislators for prioritizing women's rights and working to break down the barriers that perpetuate discrimination."

Dina Bakst, co-founder and co-president of A Better Balance, said "We applaud the Assembly for passage of critical legislation to ensure no pregnant New Yorker has to choose between her job and her health. Now, thousands of New York women each year will quickly be able to get the modest accommodations they need to stay healthy and employed, providing crucial support to their families who increasingly rely on mothers as breadwinners. Additionally, we thank the Assembly for taking a strong stance for working mothers by raising the minimum wage, strengthening legal protections for mothers, and making childcare more affordable and accessible. These measures will break down key barriers that cause gender discrimination and inequality in the workplace and bring us one step closer to fairness and equal opportunity for all women in the state of New York."

Kate Breslin, president and CEO of the Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy, said "Moms, dads and other caretakers should not have to choose between going to work and knowing their baby is safe and well-cared for, but sometimes they do. The Assembly leadership's package of child care bills will help to address this problem. The evidence is clear that there are long term benefits --- developmental and fiscal - when families have access to high quality, affordable child care. Conversely, children, families, and communities suffer when parents cannot secure quality child care."

Ellen A. Redmond, international representative for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), Third District, said "With each WEA bill that passes, the women of the state of New York take one step closer to gaining the protections they deserve. Whether it is at the workplace by ending sexual harassment or making a reasonable accommodation for pregnant women; these are milestones in our state's history that we will share for generations to come with our mothers, daughters, granddaughters, sisters and aunts. We applaud Speaker Heastie and the members of Assembly for remembering all of the amazing women in our lives as we celebrate Mother's Day this coming Sunday."