What You Should Know About New York’s Women’s Equality Act
In October 2015, New York’s Governor Cuomo signed several pieces of legislation providing women across the state with stronger protection against employment discrimination in the workplace. The legislation as a whole, being referred to as the Women’s Equality Act is intended to offer women with better opportunities to achieve pay equality along with additional rights and protections from sexual harassment and gender discrimination. New York continues to protect more workers than many states by passing laws that prohibit discrimination based on transgender status, familial status, pregnancy and more.
The pay gap between men and women is not a new problem. Throughout history, women have received lower wages for performing the same jobs as their male counterparts. People have been fighting for, and making strides towards, pay equality for decades, but there is still a disparity between the wages earned by men and women.
Historically, women have also been bearing the brunt of workplace discrimination and harassment. Anti-discrimination laws, although they protect many different characteristics of employees, were written in large part to combat workplace bias toward women as their numbers in the American workforce grew. The Women’s Equality Agenda includes legislation that supports and clarifies existing laws but also provides additional new protections that will benefit women as they continue to fight for workplace equality. As stated by Sonia Ossorio, President of the National Organization for Women New York City, “these anti-discrimination bills address key challenges that span a woman’s working life. We are leveling the playing field for women at work and improving the lives of families at home.”
If you are experiencing gender discrimination or sexual harassment at your workplace, consider speaking with an attorney. Perhaps you are not sure if you have a claim against your employer. Have you been fired because you are pregnant? Are you getting paid less than the men in your company performing similar work? Is a co-worker sending you unwanted explicit photos? Are you having trouble getting a job because people make assumptions about your ability to handle motherhood and work? What can you do? Who is responsible for gender discrimination?
Our professional and highly skilled employment lawyers understand the options you may have under federal and state laws that can lead you toward a significant monetary recovery or other remedies to which you may be entitled. We have spent decades assisting clients to pursue various types of employment discrimination claims and dedicate our efforts to seeing that you receive personal and professional representation at all stages of the process. We handle gender discrimination cases for men and women throughout New York, the New York City metro area and Long Island, and has a successful track record of providing high-quality legal services with compassion and skill unmatched in our business. Call us today for a free evaluation, and to learn more about your rights to recover damages for your gender discrimination claim.
Women’s Equality Act Strengthens the Employment Rights of Women in New York
If there are federal laws such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Pay Act along with state laws like New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL) that already prohibit employment discrimination, sex harassment, and require equal pay for equal work, why enact more? According to the NY Women’s Equality Coalition:
- Discrimination against women in the workplace based on pregnancy is becoming more frequent.
- Women file over 75% of the employment discrimination cases that allege gender discrimination.
- Over 80% of sexual harassment claims filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) are filed by women.
- There has been no provision allowing a prevailing sex discrimination plaintiff to recover attorneys fees.
- More than 60% of private employers in New York do not have the requisite number of employees binding them to follow state anti-discrimination laws.
- In New York, women earn only 84% of what men earn
- Jobs typically held by women pay significantly less than jobs typically held by men.
- People are less likely to recommend women with children for hiring and promotion than men with children.
- There has never been a state law that protects female workers and job applicants from employment discrimination based on familial status.
Women’s Equality Act Tackles Important Issues
The Women’s Equality Act addresses every one of the inequalities the Coalition set forth. Important highlights from the Act include the following:
Discrimination based on Familial Status:
- The law expressly prohibits employment discrimination based on familial status. This prohibition means that an employer or prospective employer may not make decisions about an individual because of their status as a pregnant person, parent, guardian or someone in the process of becoming through adoption or otherwise, a parent or guardian.
- The same prohibition applies to employment agencies, labor unions and licensing agencies.
Sexual Harassment in the Workplace:
- The law widens the definition of “employer” so that all New York businesses must adhere to state sexual harassment laws. Previously, an employer had to have at least four workers for an employee to file a sexual harassment complaint with the New York Division of Human Rights. Now, an employee of any private business has the right to do so.
- The law has provisions to eliminate secrecy that results from employer’s strict rules prohibiting workers from talking about their wages with other employees. Employers may no longer prohibit employees from discussing their wages. By eliminating secrecy, the law aims to help women freely learn what their male co-workers earn without fear of reprisal.
- The law also increases the amount of damages that employers must pay when they violate equal pay laws.
Recovery of Fees:
- In addition to other compensation, the Women’s Equality Act allows the court to award attorney’s fees to a plaintiff who wins a sex discrimination case against his or her employer.
Discrimination Based on Pregnancy:
- An employer must make a reasonable accommodation for pregnant workers and when doing so must perform a reasonable accommodation analysis.
By passing this sweeping legislation, New York State has shed light on the need to continuously review and seek ways to improve protections for women in the fight for workplace equality and safety.
Do you have questions about the Women’s Equality Act? Do you feel like your employer or perhaps a co-worker may be violating your workplace rights? If so, our gender discrimination attorneys who protect employees may be able to offer some help.
We have years of experience compassionately and zealously fighting for the rights of employees. Whether you work in New York City, one of the five boroughs or on Long Island, contact our office for a free consultation and let us help determine if someone should pay for violating your employment rights. There are time limits to file workplace discrimination, sex harassment, and equal pay claims so call 1-800-585-4658 now. Someone is here to take your call 24/7.