United States: New York State Expands Equal Pay Law And Other Workplace Protections For Women

Last Updated: October 30 2015
Article by Jill L. Rosenberg

On October 21, 2015, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a group of eight bills, referred to as the Women's Equality Agenda, which expand protections for women in the workplace and elsewhere in New York State.  The changes that will affect New York employers include an expansion of the existing State equal pay law, the addition of familial status as a protected category and the express requirement that employers reasonably accommodate pregnancy-related conditions.

The new laws affecting the workplace are as follows:

Amendment of Equal Pay Law

Following the lead of California, which strengthened its own equal pay act earlier this month with enactment of the Fair Pay Act, Governor Cuomo has signed the Achieve Pay Equity bill.  This bill makes several important amendments to the State's equal pay law (Section 194(1) of the New York Labor Law), which until now, closely tracked the Federal Equal Pay Act (EPA).  Section 194(1), like the EPA, requires employers to provide equal pay to men and women in the "same establishment" for "equal work," defined as work requiring "equal skill, effort and responsibility" and "performed under similar working conditions."  However, an employer can defend wage differentials if they are based on: (a) a seniority system, (b) a merit system, (c) a system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production, or (d) any other factor other than sex.

The new law amends Section 194(1) as follows:

First, the law broadens the meaning of "same establishment" by defining it to include workplaces located in the "same geographic region" (but no larger than a county), taking into account population distribution, economic activity and/or the presence of municipalities.  Thus, the comparison of employee wages may go beyond a single location, for example, two retail stores of a company in the same city or in different cities but in the same county.  It remains to be seen how much flexibility employers will have to apply the stated factors to determine what constitutes the "same geographic region."

Second, the law replaces the "any other factor other than sex" defense to a wage differential and with the potentially more limited and ambiguous defense of "a bona fide factor other than sex, such as education, training, or experience (emphasis added)."  The law further provides the employer must demonstrate that this factor:

  • is not based on or derived from a sex-based differential in compensation
  • is job-related with respect to the position in question; and
  • is consistent with a business necessity (defined as "a factor that bears a manifest relationship to the employment in question").

However, even if the employer can satisfy its burden with respect to these three elements, the defense will not be allowed if the employee can then demonstrate that:

  • the employer uses an employment practice that causes a disparate impact on the basis of sex
  • an alternative employment practice exists that would serve the same purpose without causing a disparate impact; and
  • the employer has refused to adopt the alternative practice.

The amended New York law is similar to the California Fair Pay Act in placing a greater burden on employers to justify wage differentials.   However, the California law goes even further by requiring employers to pay employees of the opposite sex equally for "substantially similar work" when viewed as a composite of skill, effort and responsibility, and performed under similar working conditions, rather than for "equal work," which remains the standard in New York.   The different standards for employers in New York and California will create challenges for employers with operations in both states.   (For an in-depth examination of the California Fair Pay Act, see our prior blog post and article by colleagues, Gary R. Siniscalco and Lauri Damrell.)

The Achieve Pay Equity bill makes two additional revisions affecting pay claims in New York:

Pay Transparency: The bill provides that employers may not prohibit employees from inquiring about, discussing or disclosing wage information, except under very limited circumstances.  Many New York employees already have similar protections, including those employed by federal contractors, who are subject to Executive Order 13665, and employees covered by Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act.

Increased Damages:  The bill increases the amount of liquidated damages that may be awarded under the Labor Law for failure to pay wages, including a violation of Section 194, from 100% of the wages due to 300% of wages due, but only in the case of a willful violation.

Family Status Discrimination

The End Family Status Discrimination bill adds familial status to the characteristics and groups of individuals protected from employment discrimination under the New York State Human Rights Law (HRL).  Prior to the amendment, the HRL only protected individuals against discrimination based on familial status in housing and credit.  "Familial status" is defined under the HRL as a person who is pregnant, or has a child, or is in the process of securing legal custody of any individual, under the age of eighteen.  While the new law was intended to protect women who are affected by stereotypes about their ability to work due to their status as a parent or guardian of children, the law applies equally to men and women as parents or guardians.

Accommodation of Pregnant Employees

The Protect Women from Pregnancy Discrimination bill clarifies the Human Rights to expressly require that employers provide reasonable accommodations for pregnancy-related conditions, unless to do so would cause an undue hardship to the employer.

Sexual Harassment Coverage for Small Employers

The Protect Victims of Sexual Harassment bill amends the HRL to protect all employees from sexual harassment in the workplace regardless of employer size by eliminating the current four-employee coverage threshold under the HRL.  However, the expanded coverage applies only to sexual harassment claims and not to other protections of the HRL.

Attorneys' Fees for Prevailing Plaintiffs

The Remove Barriers to Remedying Discrimination bill amends the HRL to permit a prevailing plaintiff in an employment or credit discrimination case based on sex to recover reasonable attorneys' fees. The bill also permits a prevailing respondent in such a case to recover its reasonable attorneys' fees, but only if the respondent can show that the action was frivolous.  The bill does not change the law with respect to other types of employment discrimination claims under the HRL, which precludes any party from recovering attorneys' fees.

All of the bills become effective on January 19, 2016, 90 days after enactment.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.