NEW YORK – Government employees throughout New York State would have the same rights and remedies as private employees when they suffer pay discrimination, under legislation (A2425) which passed the New York State Assembly on April 16 and was sponsored by Assemblymember Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria).
“When someone’s pay is discriminatory, they should have the right go into our State courts to sue for fair pay. Currently hundreds of thousands of public employees do not have that right. That makes no sense and it’s just plain wrong,” Assemblymember Simotas said.
The Simotas bill would amend the New York State Civil Service Law to expand and clarify the meaning of equal pay for equal or equivalent work, spelling out that public employees must receive fair, non-biased compensation in which sex, race or national original is not considered either directly or indirectly. The legislation explicitly gives government employees, whether they are unionized or managerial, the right to sue in State court when they’ve experienced pay discrimination, something they currently cannot do. Only private sector employees have the right to sue in state court to enforce pay equity.
“In an ideal world government employers would set an example of righteous treatment of employees, but unfortunately we live in a world where pay inequity in the public sector is very real,” Simotas said. She noted as one example the 2015 federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission finding that for many years New York City had discriminated against more than a thousand black female administrative managers by paying them substantially less than their white male counterparts in similarly situated jobs and titles. Local 1180 of the Communication Workers of America filed that complaint with the EEOC.
Under the Simotas bill, if a government employer was found in violation of the Civil Service Law’s equal pay provisions, the employee would be entitled to back pay, compensatory and punitive damages as well as attorney fees and other costs. The employer would also be enjoined from continuing the discriminatory practice.
“When workers have access to the courts to fight pay inequities that is a powerful way to get closer to eliminating those inequities,” said Simotas.