In Governor Cuomo’s 2013 State of the State Address he says, “New York has fallen behind in its role as a progressive leader on women’s rights.” JWFNY’s Advocacy Committee knows the Governor is right. Advocating to improve discriminatory policies that affect women in the workplace, the JWFNY Advocacy Committee speaks out within the Jewish community as well as the community at large. Committee members have been attending advocacy related events, signing related petitions and discussing these issues with leaders in the field.
One of the goals of the Advocacy Committee is to display to the Jewish community that the issues affecting women in the workplace are critical and in need of prompt attention. Furthermore, over the past year, the main theme of JWFNY’s grantmaking has been economic security for women. The Advocacy Committee’s objective has been to further leverage these grants by providing women with continued support in their occupations and increased opportunities for growth. This is why JWFNY is proud to highlight the Governor’s 10-Point Women’s Equality Act, which he says, “will bring New York back to its rightful place as a leader on women’s equality.”
Point 1. Shatter the Glass Ceiling: Achieve Pay Equity
The first point of the 10-Point Act, to Achieve Pay Equity, speaks to the heart of JWFNY’s current advocacy work: eliminating wage discrimination based on gender. The Advocacy Committee continues to find that it is all too common for women in the workplace to be paid and treated unequally because of their gender, and women continue to earn only 84 percent of what men earn. To achieve pay equity the Governor proposes to:
- Provide women who are found by court to have been victims of wage discrimination with increased additional damages. Currently individuals are entitled to the wages they would have earned had they been paid on an equal basis, plus attorney’s fees and statutory interests. The plaintiff is also entitled to receive liquidated damages that equal 100 percent of the back wages due. The Governor is going to increase the entitlement of liquidated damages to 300 percent of the back wages.
- Redefine the broad exceptions that are currently in New York State Law that enable employers to essentially point to any factor in an attempt to avoid liability. The Governor proposes tightening these exceptions so the pay differentials are excused only where the employer can show that the differential is truly caused by something other than gender and is related to job performance.
- Prohibit employers from terminating or retaliating against employees who share wage information. Policies against sharing wage information essentially deny women workers the ability to discover whether their wages are unequal to their male counterparts.
JWFNY also commends the Governor’s proposal to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.75 an hour. Many jobs traditionally held by women pay minimum or comparable wages. This increase will help all minimum wage workers and will specifically boost single female headed households with young children, who represent the highest percentage of people whose income falls below the poverty level.
JWFNY’s advocacy efforts are largely guided by its advocacy partners, who are making the Governor’s 10-Point Act and women’s equality possible. JWFNY is proud to stand with New York Women’s Agenda, A Better Balance, and National Council for Jewish Women, among other organizations, and continue this important work together.
To read the section of Governor Cuomo’s 2013 State of the State Address that covers the 10-Point Women’s Equality Act click here.