ALBANY, N.Y. - Governor Andrew M. Cuomo was joined by members of the Women's Equality Coalition today to introduce legislation designed to end discrimination and inequality based on gender. If enacted by the legislature, the Women's Equality Act will achieve equal pay, stop sexual harassment, prevent pregnancy discrimination in all workplaces, strengthen human trafficking laws and protections for domestic violence victims, end family status discrimination and protect a woman's freedom of choice.
The Women's Equality Act will:
Achieve equal pay: Currently, in NY, women earn 84% of what men earn, and over a lifetime will earn $500,000 less than men. Jobs that are traditionally held by women pay significantly less than jobs predominately employing men. And, in NY, a woman working full time is paid, on average, $42,113 per year, while a man is paid $50,388 per year.
Stop Sexual Harassment: The new law would ban sexual harassment in every workplace, regardless of the number of employees, so all workers are protected. Currently, NY law only prohibits sexual harassment in workplaces with four or more employees. Over 60% of NY employers have less than four employees.
Remove Barriers to Remedying Discrimination: The legislation would allow successful plaintiffs to recover attorney's fees in employment or credit discrimination cases based on sex. Currently, plaintiffs cannot recover attorney fees at trial for employment discrimination cases, making it costly to bring a case. Approximately 77% of sex based employment discrimination cases filed with NY are filed by women.
End Family Status Discrimination: The bill would prohibit employers from denying work or promotions to workers simply because they have children. Currently, NY law only prohibits discrimination based on "familial status" in areas of housing and credit.
Stop Housing Discrimination for Victims of Domestic Violence: The new law would prohibit landlords from discriminating against victims of domestic violence. Under the current state law, victims of domestic violence are not protected from discrimination in housing, allowing landlords to reject those most in need of housing.
Stop Source-of-Income Discrimination: This legislation would prohibit landlords from discriminating against tenants based on lawful source of income, and therefore maximizes a family's ability to secure safe and decent housing.
Protect Victims of Domestic Violence by Strengthening Order-of-Protection Laws: The legislation creates a pilot program to allow domestic violence victims to seek temporary orders of protection through electronic means rather than having to appear in person. In addition, this bill would ensure that orders of protection are translated, when needed, and makes clear that a victim of domestic violence who has an order of protection against her abuser cannot be accused of violating her own order of protection.
Strengthen Human Trafficking Laws: This legislation would, in part, eliminate the requirement that "coercion" be proven in a sex trafficking prosecution when the victims of sex trafficking are minors. In addition, the bill would increase the penalties for trafficking and create an affirmative defense in prostitution prosecutions if the defendant was herself a sex trafficking victim.
Stop Pregnancy Discrimination: The legislation would create a specific protection that requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees.
Protect a Woman's Freedom of Choice: This bill would codify existing Supreme Court law to protect a woman's right to obtain an abortion prior to viability, or when necessary to protect her life or health. Currently, NY's law that protects a women's freedom of choice is outdated and does not conform to protections outlined in Roe v. Wade and current state practice.