A new piece of legislation will now make it essential for employers to provide equal pay for women in the workplace. The state Assembly unanimously voted to close loopholes that will guarantee women equal pay in work, with Governor Andrew Cuomo signing the bill.
Pay Gap is a reality
Like many states in the U.S., New York has over one million households with women as the breadwinners. The presence of the pay gap means that women receive less income to pay for necessities, such as health care, childcare, housing, and even groceries. This gap is especially felt by families living under the poverty line, with statistics reporting that almost 28 percent of all women-headed households are in.
Although there is already an existing law protecting women from the pay gap, there are loopholes that allow many employers to avoid sanctions. Employers telling their employees not to reveal their salaries is just one tactic that they do in order to bypass the existing law. The new bill, however, would amend this and will make offenders accountable.
A huge step change
Assembly speaker Carl Heastie stated that ‘The wage gap exists because discrimination exists’. The presence of discrimination on women, particularly to African-American women is the reason why there is still a persisting pay gap between men and women. Studies put forward by Women’s rights advocates show that earnings of women in New York were ’86 percent of men’s pay in 2013’, with even lower figures for African-American women.
The pay gap does not just affect African-American women though. While African-American women only earn 66 percent of what men earn, women of Hispanic descent only earn 54 percent.
The bill is a reiteration of an already existing law in New York, which prevents gender-based pay differentials, with only important factors such as seniority, productivity, and merit systems as instrumental to a change in wage.
The bill was approved on Monday, and would revise the law, which reinforces factors such as education, training, and experience, while sex itself will not be a contributing factor. For many women, the most important change is that the law will triple damages for violations to over 300 percent, while also forbidding employers from telling their employees to keep their pay a secret.
Many women believe this is a huge step forward to finally getting rid of the pay gap.
Sonia Ossorio, president of NOW New York stated that ‘New York has now done at the state level what federal lawmakers have not been able to do nationwide’. She describes the concept of wage secrecy policies as debilitating and hurting ‘women’s chances at getting paid fairly and equally.