NY Passes Laws to Expand Protection Against Pay Discrimination

On Wednesday, July 10th, Governor Cuomo signed into law new legislation to expand equal pay laws and prohibit employers from asking about salary history.


Equal Pay

The first law (S5248B/A8093A) relates to prohibiting certain wage differentials on the basis of a protected class, and would amend New York State’s current equal pay law – Labor Law § 194. The new legislation makes it unlawful to pay different wages for substantially similar work on the basis of an individuals age, race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, military status, disability, predisposing genetic characteristics, familial status, marital status, domestic violence victim status, and other status as protected under the New York State Human Rights Law. Currently, Section 194 prohibits only gender-based pay discrimination.

The new regulation also adjusts the language used and requires that employers pay equal wages for “substantially similar work” rather than “equal work” as stated in the current law.  This change makes it easier for employees to bring claims against their employer for unequal pay. Under this bill, the New York State Department of Labor (DOL) would be authorized to assess civil penalties for pay discrimination because of membership in a protected class.

Pay History Inquiries

The second bill signed (S6549/A5308B) would further amend New York State’s Labor Law by adding a new section – Labor Law § 194-a – that prohibits employers from asking job applicants or current employees for salary history. Under the law applicants may still voluntarily disclose their wage/salary history; however, employers may not consider an applicants pay history when making the following decisions:

  1. Whether or not to make an offer
  2. What their offer of pay would be

This law also forbids employers from retaliating against applicants or employees for refusing to provide their wage/salary history, or filing a complaint with the NYS DOL.

For questions, or to ensure your HR practices are in compliance, please reach out to us!