New York Expands Equal Pay Protections

By Douglas Lipsky

Governor Cuomo recently signed legislation amending the New York Equal Pay Act. The new law, which originally required equal pay for women and men who perform equal work, extends protections to employees based on any protected class under the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL). In addition, the law establishes a lower threshold than the “equal work” standard. The best way to protect your rights under the amended Equal Pay Act is to consult an experienced employment law attorney.

Are More Pay Equity Claims on the Horizon?

While the Equal Pay Act was designed to protect employees based on gender, the protected classes under the NYSHRL include age, race, color, creed, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, and gender identity among others. Additionally, the new law eliminates the “equal work” standard by requiring equal pay for employees who perform “substantially similar” work. The substantially similar standard considers the required “skill, effort and responsibility” for jobs performed under similar working conditions. Despite these changes, employers may still rely on certain factors to justify wage differences among employees, including:

  • Geographic location
  • Seniority/merit systems
  • Quantity or quality of production
  • Education, training, or experience

The law becomes effective on October 8, 2019, which may open the door to pay equity claims based not only on gender but on any of these protected characteristics. 

Other Labor Law Protections Become Effective in 2020

In addition to the expanded pay equity protections, the governor also signed legislation prohibiting employers from inquiring about wage or salary history as a condition of employment or to determine the salary in connection with a job offer. Advocates of pay equity believe such inquiries put women and other protected classes at a disadvantage by steering them into lower salary levels. It is worth noting, however, that the new law does not prevent a candidate from voluntarily disclosing his or her salary history when negotiating a compensation package. 

The Takeaway

Equal pay protections in New York originally conceived to eliminate gender bias have now been expanded to cover a more comprehensive class of employees. This development mirrors changes to equal pay protections in other jurisdictions and goes further than the protections under the federal Equal Pay Act which was enacted in 1963. 

While this is welcome news for employees in New York, enforcing these protections can be daunting. Employees are often at a disadvantage when pursuing a wage and hour claim. If you believe you have been a victim of wage discrimination, contact the experienced employment law attorneys at Lipsky Lowe LLP.

About the Author
Douglas Lipsky is a co-founding partner of Lipsky Lowe LLP. He has extensive experience in all areas of employment law, including discrimination, sexual harassment, hostile work environment, retaliation, wrongful discharge, breach of contract, unpaid overtime, and unpaid tips. He also represents clients in complex wage and hour claims, including collective actions under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and class actions under the laws of many different states. If you have questions about this article, contact Douglas today.