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advocacy for pay equity

Pay Equity

Summary of Pay Equity

Pay Equity or equal pay for job titles of comparable worth requires that job titles primarily filled by different sexes be paid comparable wages if the skill and responsibility levels required by the job titles are comparable.  Within the workforce of an individual employer,  job titles primarily filled by women and people of color (such as nurse aid and food service worker) must be paid comparably to male dominated job titles requiring the same levels of skill, responsibilities and performed under similar working conditions.

At the heart of comparable worth or job-title pay equity reform is the fact that job titles traditionally filled by women and people of color have been systematically undervalued in the marketplace.   The net result is that these job titles are commonly paid less than comparable jobs with the same levels of skills and responsibilities but held by white males.  For instance, some school districts pay secretaries and teaching assistants (job titles that require associate degrees) less than the cleaners.  School nurses in the West Islip school district once started at $27,000, while groundskeepers started at $29,000.  In Denver, nurses were found to make less than gardeners.

This bias can be demonstrated and subsequently eliminated by assessing the economic value of different jobs through the use of a gender-neutral job evaluation system.  Apples and oranges can be compared by using any common denominator such as vitamins, juice content or calories, etc.  Similarly different job titles can be compared using common denominators such as the amount of education required, the responsibility for people (or budgets or resources) etc.  For over 70 years, most, if not all, large employers have had job evaluation wage-setting processes in place to relate the common denominator requirements of vastly different job titles to their salaries.  This is one of the primary functions of  personnel/human resource departments.  For more information on how job titles can be compared see the Educational Materials section below.

Federal equal-pay for equal-work legislation prohibits the paying persons of different genders or race/ethnicity differently if they are doing the same work.  But there is no protection if you are not doing exactly the same work. 
Equal pay can never exist if it is possible to ghettoize women and people of color (and many white men as well) into traditionally female jobs and, therefore, pay them less than their work is worth.  This is a family issue that impacts pensions and social security as well as current household income.

Pay Equity: Summary of Current Action

In April of 2011, the Assembly passed the package of pay equity bills as it has done every year since the turn of the century (2000). But before the bills were passed the Republican Assembly members grilled each sponsor with questions which they deemed unanswerable in an attempt to make the sponsors and the issue look foolish. In response the Assembly Democrats held a press conference so that the sponsor of each bill could explain the issue. An outgrowth of this was that Assemblymember Rosenthal appeared on a television news program concerning pay equity.

December 12, 2011, the Assembly Standing Committees on Labor; Governmental Employees; Governmental Operations; Oversight, Analysis and Investigation; and the Assembly Task Force on Women’s Issues held PUBLIC HEARING on PAY EQUITY. The PURPOSE statement for the hearing reads: “Almost 50 years after the passage of the Equal Pay Act (EPA) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, women and minorities continue to suffer the consequences of unequal pay. This hearing will examine wage disparities that continue to exist in New York State and discuss ways to eliminate discriminatory practices.”

Seventeen testimonies were submitted from individuals and organizations such as the Cornell University Institute for Compensation Studies, the State Bar Association, Hunter College, the YWCA, the Equal Pay Coalition of NYC, the New York State United Teachers, Local 1180 of the Communication Workers of America, the Work and Family Legal Center and the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. All of the testimonies spoke in favor of the pay equity reform, except the one from the Business Council. LWVNY submitted testimony as did the New York Pay Equity Coalition (NYSPEC), the Coalition that we work through on this issue. Following the hearing NYSPEC provided technical assistance to Assembly central staff as they revised their package of pay equity bills and introduced and passed them in the 2012 session.

Democratic Women Senators held a roundtable discussion of the Economic Issues facing Women in NY on May 15th, 2012.  LWVNY and NYSPEC participated in the discussion, providing information about pay equity, but the discussion was broader, also addressing pregnancy and family status discrimination, reproductive health, domestic violence, human trafficking, etc.

In his January 2013 State of the State, Governor Cuomo introduced his Women’s Equality Agenda, which included under the topic of “Achieve Pay Equity” prohibiting employers from terminating or retaliating against employees who share wage information, a practice that enables wage disparities to persist undetected.”  This section also indicated that current NYS law would be amended to “ensure that women receive the wages they were always entitled to, as well as provide for an additional amount of liquidated damages equal to 300% of the back wages due.”   Subsequently, LWVNY joined the NY Women’s Equality Coalition to work for the principles included in the Women’s Equality Act. 

At the end of session in 2013 the Assembly passed the omnibus Women’s Equality Act, and the Senate introduced and passed 9 of the separate sections of the Women’s Equality Act as bills.  Since there were no same as bills nothing changed.  In January of 2014 the Assembly again passed The Women’s Equality Act (A. 8070).

In addition to lobbying for the Women’s Equality Act LWVNY and NYSPEC will continue to advocate for comparable worth legislation.

Pay Equity: Current Bills

Pay Equity: Barb Thomas and Lois Haignere (Updated 4/3/2014)

The Women's Equality Act (A. 8070) includes a provision to make equal pay for equal work easier to obtain by prohibiting employers from terminating or retaliating against employees who share wage information, a practice that enables wage disparities to persist undetected.  The Women’s Equality Act also increases damages by eliminating loopholes that make it difficult to win a settlement when a worker has not received equal pay for equal work.  LWVNY is working in the Women's Equality Coalition to make this into law.

LWVNY [and the NYS Pay Equity Coalition (NYSPEC) of which the League is a primary member] will continue to support three equal pay for job titles of comparable worth bills that have been passed in previous sessions by the Assembly and have never made it to the floor of the Senate: 

  • The NYS Fair Pay Act [A05958 (Heastie), S01491 (Krueger)]
    The NYS Fair Pay Act s bill is comprehensive, covering both the public and private sectors, and enforceable.  Passage of this bill would provide protection for all employees working in traditionally female job titles in NY State.
  • A01729A (Jaffee) 
    While it does not cover the private sector, it seeks to ensure that each public sector employer in NY State pays non-biased compensation to job titles that have equivalent value.   [Currently, there is no SAME AS bill in the Senate.]
  • A00753A (Rosenthal), S01871A (Montgomery)  
    These bills require the State to maintain equal pay for comparable worth for state employees in job titles where women and people of color predominate, and provides enforcement through the Civil Service Department.
Pay Equity: Testimony
Pay Equity: Memos
Pay Equity: Letters, Press Releases, Op Ed Pieces, and Press Coverage
  • MOS A8487-S6059A Establishing Equal Pay Disclosures for State Contracts



Pay Equity: League Position
Pay Equity: Other Written Materials (Non-League)
  • The Proclamation in Support of Equal Pay Day (4/7/2014)
  • Public Officials Who Have Issued Proclamations
    • Albany- Mayor Kathy Sheehan
    • Erie County Executive- Mark Poloncarz
    • North Hempstead – Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth
    • Saratoga Springs -  Mayor Joanne Yepsen
    • Schenectady County Legislature
    • Schenectady City Council
    • Schenectady - Mayor Gary McCarthy
    • White Plains – Mayor Thomas M. Roach, Jr.
    • Westchester- Senator George Lattimer
    • Village of Scarsdale - Mayor Robert Steves
  • Women’s Equality Act Description (4/4/2014)
Pay Equity: archived materials
Contact the League Office to request archived materials.