Equal Pay Protections Expanded

In late 2019, New York State expanded equal pay protections to employees of all classes and characteristics covered by the State’s anti-discrimination in the workplace law.

As a result, pay discrimination claims can be based not only on gender, as the prior law had mandated, but also age, race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, disability and other characteristics.

The new law also lowers the legal standard necessary to prove pay discrimination. Previously, employers were required to ensure equal pay for equal work. Under the expanded law, New York employers must ensure equal pay for “substantially similar work”.

Pay differentials are permitted if they are based on a seniority system, a system that measures earning based on quality or quantity of work, and a bona fide factor other than one’s membership in a protected class, such as education, training or experience.

Takeaway: Employers should undertake internal reviews of their pay policies to ensure that all employees doing substantially similar work are paid equally, regardless of their protected class.