April 11, 2016

Assembly Continues Push to Level the Playing Field
by Passing Pay Equity Bills

To create a more equitable workplace and ensure that all New Yorkers are able to achieve success and climb the economic ladder, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Labor Committee Chair Michele Titus today announced the passage of a legislative package that will prevent unequal pay practices across the State of New York.These bills build on the success of the last several years to address income inequality.

"Pay discrimination, something that hurts all hard working New York families, has always been a priority of the People's House," said Heastie. Today, women are crucial providers for their families and minorities comprise a large part of our work force. We cannot allow these individuals to have their work undervalued. That is why we have passed meaningful legislation to put an end to these discriminatory practices and help all New Yorkers earn what they deserve."

"Women and minorities have been systematically devalued, not only in New York State, but all across the country," said Titus. "As leaders, we have a moral obligation to ensure that every citizen of our great state has the same opportunities. Every individual should be able to make contributions to society and be compensated fairly for those contributions."

In New York State, women earn 87 percent of what men earn. The wage gap becomes more significant for African-American and Hispanic women, who earn 66 percent and 56 percent of what non-Hispanic men earn, respectively.

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 establishes that it is an unlawful employment practice for an employer to discriminate between employees on the basis of sex, race or national origin by paying different wages for the same job. Under the bill, it is not unlawful to determine pay by a legitimate seniority or merit system, performance evaluation system, geographic differences, or differences in training and experience. (A.6937, Titus).

The legislative package also includes measures to ensure pay equity for civil services workers across the state. The measure (A.437-A, Rosenthal) establishes a state policy of compensating employees in state service equally for work of equal value by eliminating wage inequality in job titles and position classifications which have been segregated by sex, race or national origin.

To encourage and prepare women to take on higher paying jobs, another measure would require the Department of Labor and the Department of Civil Service to provide information about high paying career opportunities, including those usually held by men, to both men and women. Additionally, the department would be required to report to the Legislature on the success of these initiatives (A.9755, Jaffee).

The package also includes a measure that would require the president of the civil service commission to study and publish a report evaluating wage disparities among public employers (A.5008-A, 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 then be required to be submitted to legislative leaders and the executive.

Lastly, the package includes a measure to ensure public employees have a mechanism to enforce their right to equal pay for equal work. The bill creates a private right of action for public employees who have experienced pay discrimination based on sex, race or national origin (A.9754, Simotas).