The New York State Legislature recently passed a trio of pay equity bills in an effort to address wage inequality and expand protections against pay discrimination to even more individuals.
The Scope of New York’s Equal Pay Law Increased
The first bill (S5248B/A8093) would amend New York State’s current equal pay law – Labor Law § 194 – to cover a number of additional protected categories, including age, race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, military status, disability, predisposing genetic characteristics, familial status, marital status, domestic violence victim status, and other employees and interns protected under the New York State Human Rights Law. Currently, Section 194 prohibits only gender-based pay discrimination.
In addition, this bill would further amend Section 194 and lower the bar for employees bringing equal pay claims by requiring that employers provide equal pay – not just for “equal work,” but for “substantially similar work” as well. Under this bill, the New York State Department of Labor would be authorized to assess civil penalties for pay discrimination because of membership in a protected class.
Public Employees Included
The second bill (S456B/A1047) would amend New York State’s Civil Service Law to address a 2014 decision by the New York State Court of Appeals. Notably, in Subway Surface Supervisors Ass’n v. New York City Transit Authority, 22 N.Y.3d 1182 (2014), the Court found that Civil Service Law § 115 simply stated a general policy of New York State to provide equal pay for equal work and did not create a private right of action for public employees. According to the bill’s sponsors, it would “clarify that public employees have the same rights as private employees and may bring a private right of action to enforce their right to equal pay for equal and equivalent work.”
Salary History Inquiries Prohibited
The third bill (S6549/A5308B) would further amend New York State’s Labor Law by adding a new section – Labor Law § 194-a – that prohibits employers from asking job applicants or current employees for salary history. While this bill does not forbid the voluntary disclosure of salary or wage history, under Section 194-a, employers would be prohibited from considering an applicant’s salary history when deciding (1) whether to make an offer or (2) what the related salary would be. This bill would also prohibit retaliation against applicants and employees for refusing to provide salary history or filing complaints with the New York State Department of Labor.
What Should Employers Do Now?
Although the bills have yet to be signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo, his approval is expected. As a result, employers should review and, to the extent necessary, update any internal policies against pay discrimination. Employers should also ensure that all managers, supervisors or other individuals involved in compensation decisions are properly trained on company policies against pay discrimination. Employers needing assistance with complying with these new laws should consult with experienced employment counsel.