Jaffee: Assembly Passes Pay Equity Legislation

April 29, 2009

Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee (D-Suffern) announced today the Assembly passed legislation she supported to end gender-based wage discrimination in New York State.

“It is unconscionable that in 2009, it is even necessary to pass this legislation, but it is,” said Assemblywoman Jaffee. “My hope is that once and for all, equal pay for equal work will become a reality, not only because it’s right, but because a growing number of women are the heads of their households and wage discrimination, in those cases, hurts children.”

The wage gap has changed little since the federal Equal Pay Act was passed in 1963. At that time, women earned 59 cents on the dollar compared to men. As of 2007, that figure had risen to 78 cents on the dollar, showing that the gap has narrowed at the slow rate of less than a half cent per year. Historically, the wage-gap is worse for African-American women, who earn only 69 cents on the dollar, and Hispanic women, who earn a low 59 cents per dollar for comparable work.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2007 women’s median pay was less than men’s in each and every one of 20 industries and 25 occupation groups. Even men working in female-dominated occupations tend to earn more than women working in those same occupations.

The Assembly bills prohibit discrimination based on gender, make it easier to enforce equal pay regulations, and establish a state policy of setting salaries based on comparable work. The legislation would:

  • establish Women’s Equality Day to commemorate the adoption of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guaranteed women the right to vote (A.2231-A);
  • make it an unlawful discriminatory practice for an employer to compensate women and men differently for comparable work, guaranteeing the right of “equal pay for equal work” as measured by the skill, effort and responsibility required (A.2351);
  • enact the New York State Fair Pay Act to address and enforce pay equity, including broadening equivalent job definitions, specifying methods to determine equivalent skill and ensuring traditional and minority jobs are not undervalued (A.3911);
  • ensure public employees – regardless of gender – are paid equally for comparable work (A.1119); and
  • establish a state policy of setting salaries based on comparative value of the work (A.6712).

“It is time the wage gap was closed,” said Assemblywoman Jaffee. “We can no longer afford for pay to be influenced by a person’s gender or ethnicity.”