New York State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Labor Committee Chair Michele Titus and Governmental Operations Chair Crystal Peoples-Stokes today announced Assembly passage of legislation directed at closing the pay gap in New York State.
"Just last week we marked National Equal Pay Day, which represents how long into the next year women must work to earn the same their male counterparts made - and women of color don't see that date until much later in the year," Speaker Heastie said. "The pay gap costs women hundreds of thousands of dollars over their lives, impacting even their retirement and social security. Putting families first means supporting public policies like these that empower women."
Nationwide, women make 80 cents for every dollar men make. For African American women, that number is 63 cents. For Hispanic women, that number is 54 cents. While New York has the lowest pay gap of any state in the country at 89 cents for every dollar a man makes, there is still a long way to go.
"The workplace is one of the main battlegrounds in the fight for women's equality," Assemblymember Titus said. "Over the last year, we've seen women across the country marching and speaking out to raise the profile of social issues critical to women's health and well-being. The Assembly Majority will continue fighting for equal pay for equal work, and for legislation that supports women in their fight for equality."
"There is no justification for women to continue to earn less than their male counterparts for equal work," said Assemblymember Peoples-Stokes. "These measures will eliminate tactics that perpetuate low, stagnant wages that hurt hardworking families and provide resources so that every worker has the right to compensation that is commensurate with their experience."
Although laws prohibiting overt employment discrimination exist, in many instances discrimination exists in the form of pay disparities. The New York State Fair Pay Act (A.4696, Titus) establishes that it is an unlawful discriminatory practice for employers to pay employees with the same job a different wage on the basis on sex, race or national origin.
Legislation introduced by Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal (A.658) would establish a statewide policy for state employees to ensure equal pay is provided for equal work by eliminating wage inequality in job titles and position classifications which have been segregated by sex, race or national origin.
"Across occupations and industries, women are paid less than their male colleagues. This pernicious pay gap follows women throughout their lives and into retirement where hardworking women find that they have less than their male counterparts despite a lifetime of hard work," Assemblymember Rosenthal said. "More than a century and a half after the first women's rights convention here in New York State, women across all industries continue to suffer from gender-based harassment on the job, a significant pay gap and a persistent glass ceiling, that while cracked, is still not broken. Once and for all we must say 'no' to the shortchanging of women."
Another bill would require the president of the civil service commission to study and publish a report evaluating wage disparities among public employers (A.2549, Lifton). The study would examine wage disparities related to job titles based on sex, race or national origin of the employee. A report on the findings would be required to be submitted to legislative leaders and the executive.
"It is clear that the glass ceiling is still intact, and that we still have work to do to achieve true equality for women," said Assemblymember Barbara Lifton, who sponsored the legislation. "Our legislation will help ensure that our daughters and granddaughters inherit a future where the wages and salaries they earn will reflect their invaluable contributions."
The Assembly's pay equity legislation also includes a proposal to provide public employees with a mechanism to enforce their right to equal pay for equal work. The bill establishes a private right of action for public employees who have experienced pay discrimination based on sex, race or national origin (A.2425, Simotas).
"When someone's pay is discriminatory, they should have the right go into our State courts to sue for fair pay," Assemblymember Aravella Simotas said. "Currently hundreds of thousands of public employees do not have that right. That makes no sense and it's just plain wrong."
Often, employers will use an employee's wage or salary history to justify a lower pay rate or marginal pay increase for the employee. This tactic is a root cause of continued wage inequality. Legislation introduced by Assemblymember Marcos Crespo would amend labor law to prohibit employers from requesting, requiring or seeking a current or prospective employee's salary or wage history as a condition for employment, to receive an interview or for continued employment or a promotion (A.2040).
"It has been obvious to me for a long time that requiring salary history from a job applicant only serves to suppress that candidates' wages and more so for Latinas who make only 54 cents for every dollar a Caucasian male makes performing the same job," stated Assemblymember Marcos Crespo, chair of the Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force. "This legislation will end this practice that perpetuates the discriminatory pay gap that is hurting all women, their families, entire communities and our State."