If you earn less than a co-worker of the opposite sex for substantially similar work, you may be able to recoup lost pay plus three times that sum in liquidated penalties.
Equal Pay Laws in New York
In New York State, workers are protected by state and federal equal pay laws. These laws were originally put in place with the goal of closing the gender wage gap. Although the gap has lessened over the years, women in the U.S. still earn 82% of what men earn, or 82 cents for every dollar, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. In New York, protections against wage discrimination have been expanded to include pay differences based on other protected classes, including but not limited to age, race, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, disability, family status, and domestic violence victim status.
Under New York law, you have the right to receive equal pay to a coworker outside your protected class or classes, for “substantially similar work, when viewed as a composite of skill, effort, and responsibility, and performed under similar working conditions.” However, your employer is entitled to pay different rates if there are differences in seniority level, merit, quantity or quality of production, or other bona fide factors such as education, training or experience.
Back Pay and Penalties
New York employers who are found to be in violation of the equal pay law must pay you the difference between what you should have earned and what you actually earned, plus liquidated penalties of three times that differential for willful violations. For example, if a court finds that your employer willfully and wrongfully paid you $50,000 less per year than a coworker of the opposite sex for the last two years, you would be entitled to $100,000 in back pay ($50,000 for each of the two years) plus three times that amount, or $300,000, in additional liquidated damages.
In New York, you have six years to bring a claim against your employer or prior employer for pay equity or other wage-and-hour violations. This is longer than the statute of limitations in many other jurisdictions.
How Can You Compare Your Pay with Co-Workers?
Laws are in place to help you see how your pay stacks up against what your employer pays others for similar work. Under New York Labor Law, employers are not allowed to prohibit employees from discussing their pay with each other. This protection makes it easier for employees to discover unlawful pay differences at their workplace. New laws passed by New York City and New York State take this a step further by requiring all employers with four or more employees to state a salary range in all job postings and advertisements.
If you believe you have been unlawfully discriminated against under pay equity laws, speaking to an experienced employment attorney can help you protect yourself and your rights. Contact Katz Melinger PLLC at 212-460-0047 or online.