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Cuomo signs equal-pay bill in support of women’s soccer team

by | Jul 18, 2019 | Discrimination

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On July 10, in the midst of the Manhattan ticker-tape parade in honor of the U.S. Women’s National Team’s World Cup victory in France, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a new pay-equity bill. His legislation was a symbolic gesture of support for the U.S. Women’s team in its longstanding battle for equal pay. In March, several players on the team sued the U.S. Soccer Federation for equal pay with their male counterparts in international competition, as well as for equalization of other employment benefits.

CNN reports that the parties to the lawsuit will engage in mediation now that the World Cup has wrapped up.

New York wage differential bill

The legislation (S.B. 5248) the governor signed into law expands state protections against sex-based pay discrimination to also forbid pay inequity between employees based on any protected characteristic, namely those in these classes:

  • Age
  • Race
  • Creed
  • Color
  • National origin
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender identity
  • Gender expression
  • Military status
  • Sex
  • Disability
  • Genetic characteristics
  • Family status
  • Marital status
  • Domestic violence victim status

The law mandates that employees must be paid the same pay rates across protected characteristics if they are performing “equal work on a job the performance of which requires equal skill, effort and responsibility, and which is performed under similar working conditions” or “substantially similar work, when viewed as a composite of skill, effort, and responsibility, and performed under similar working conditions.”

Complex exceptions

The law allows certain exceptions when the pay difference is based on a seniority or merit system, on production quality and/or quantity, or on a “bona fide factor other than the protected characteristic.”

This bona fide factor must be related to the job and “consistent with business necessity.” Furthermore, no exception for differentials in pay between protected classes is allowed if the employer’s practices unequally impact employees because of their belonging to a protected class or if a different practice would serve the same function without resulting in the pay differential and the employer refuses to adopt that practice.

As the law currently does with gender pay differential, the bill will require that an employer pay a $500 penalty to the state for each violation in which the employer differentiates rates of pay based on any protected classification.

This bill is important to both employers and employees. Employers should seek legal guidance about how to compare their various pay structures to ensure they comply. Any employee who suspects a pay violation should also seek counsel from an attorney to understand what the law requires and potential legal remedies.

The law takes effect 90 days from signing.

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