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Governor signs equal pay legislation

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    Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday signed a bill requiring equal pay for equal work.
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    Protest signs are held up during a ticker-tape parade celebrating the U.S. women’s national soccer team’s World Cup victory in lower Manhattan on Wednesday morning. The team led the charge in obtaining equal pay for equal work in their sport.
July 10, 2019 10:03 pm

The U.S. Women’s Soccer Team marched down the Canyon of Heroes in New York City on Wednesday morning, and with them came a new state law expanding the requirement of equal pay for equal work.

Prior to the start of the parade celebrating the team’s World Cup victory, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law legislation that expands equal pay laws to prohibit unequal pay on the basis of a protected class, as long as similar work is performed.

A separate bill signed by Cuomo prohibits employers from asking prospective employees about their salary history.

“It is now the law of the land,” Cuomo said after signing the equal pay bill. “It changes the old law, which had a loophole which employers could use to say it was not equal work, it was similar work. And if there was any difference, the law did not apply. This now changes the law to say comparable work.”

If two employees perform “basically the same work,” then their pay has to be equal, Cuomo said.

Jeff Friedman, president and executive director of the Greene County Chamber of Commerce, said equal pay for equal work is the fair thing to do.

“Equal pay, regardless of gender, as long as the same job is being done — that is a given,” Friedman said. “That is something the chamber feels the business community should embrace.”

The second bill, which prohibits employers from asking about prior salary at previous jobs, has a similar goal.

“We are also signing a bill that says you cannot ask an employee or potential employee for their history, salary history, meaning you can’t take a past injustice and use [it] to justify a present injustice,” Cuomo said.

The U.S. Women’s Soccer Team led the charge with its quest to receive pay equal to that of the U.S. Men’s Soccer Team, which was defeated in World Cup competition. The women’s team won the World Cup after shutting out the Netherlands 2-0 on Sunday in the final in Lyon, France. Cuomo used their tickertape parade in Manhattan on Wednesday as the stage to sign the legislation.

“There is no rationale why the women should not get paid what men get paid. FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) and the U.S. Soccer Conference have done this team a disservice and an injustice,” Cuomo said. “You cannot explain on the economics, on the marketing, why the women’s soccer players get paid less than men’s soccer players, period. Not only are they wrong — it is immoral. It is unethical.”

Jeffrey Hunt, president and CEO of the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce, said he does not foresee the new law having a significant effect on the local business economy.

“I do not see this law having much of an impact because many of our businesses already pay a competitive wage and many of the governmental agencies are already compliant,” Hunt said.

Friedman also said the new legislation should not have a substantial impact in Greene County.

“I don’t know if it will have a tremendous impact locally because I don’t hear there is a lot of that kind of bias, generally. It may exist somewhere, but I don’t think it will have a big impact in Greene County. Women professionals and, especially, women-owned business — that is a growing segment of the Greene County economy and we have been very supportive of that.”

Both new laws are part of the 2019 Women’s Justice Agenda, which Cuomo announced earlier this year.

The New York Times News Service contributed to this report.