FOR WOMEN’S EQUALITY
NUEVA YORK POR LA IGUALDAD DE LA MUJER
New York has long served as a model for equality and fairness on several issues including
women’s rights. At the 2013 State of the State Address, Governor Cuomo announced plans to
advance a 10-Point Women’s Equality Act that will break down barriers that perpetuate
discrimination and inequality based on gender.
1. Achieve Pay Equity: Women in New York earn 84% of what men earn. This wage gap is
even more severe for African-American and Hispanic Women, who earn 66% and 55% of
that earned by non-Hispanic men in New York State, respectively. This amendment to the
current law would ensure that women receive the wages they were always entitled to, as well
as provide for an additional amount of liquidated damages equal to 300% of the back wages
due. This new law would also tighten current exceptions so that pay differentials are only
allowed when the employer can show that the differential is based on something other than
sex and is related to job performance. Additionally, the proposal will prohibit employers
from terminating or retaliating against employees who share wage information, a practice
that enables wage disparities to persist undetected.
2. Stop Sexual Harassment in All Workplaces: Three quarters of the sexual harassment
complaints filed in this State are filed by women. This amendment to the current law would
protect workers from sexual and other forms of harassment regardless of the size of the
workplace. Under the new law, an employee of any business, large or small, may file a
complaint for sexual harassment.
3. Allow for the Recovery of Attorneys’ Fees in Employment and Credit and Lending
Cases: Over 75% of the employment and credit and lending cases in this State are filed by
women. The current law states that an individual cannot recover attorneys’ fees for
employment and credit and lending discrimination cases even after proving discrimination at
trial. As a result (a) many who are discriminated against never seek redress; (b) those who
hire an attorney on a contingency fee arrangement are not “made whole” for their losses
because they must pay for their attorneys out of their recovery; and (c) some who cannot
afford to hire an attorney, but who try to do so on a contingency basis, are unsuccessful
because the case is either too small or too risky. This plan would amend the law to include a
provision for reasonable attorneys’ fees for successful litigants, and ensure that victims of
employment and credit and lending discrimination – most of whom are women – have an
opportunity to vindicate their rights.
4. Strengthen Human Trafficking Laws: Human trafficking is a crime that exploits
vulnerable individuals through force, fraud or coercion. The victims of sex trafficking are
almost always women. The plan strengthens the existing law to remove the requirements
that “coercion” be proven when the victims are minors, increase penalties for trafficking and
create an affirmative defense in prostitution prosecutions that the defendant’s participation
was a result of having been a sex trafficking victim.
5. End Family Status Discrimination: Women with children are less likely to be
recommended for hire and promoted, and, in most cases, are offered less in salary than
similarly situated men. This proposal would amend the current law to prohibit employers
from denying work or promotion to workers simply because they have children.
6. Stop Source-of-Income Discrimination: Many households suffer discrimination by
landlords who are unwilling to rent to voucher holders. Female-headed households account
for 76% of all housing choice vouchers issued, including section 8 vouchers. This
amendment to the Human Rights Law will prohibit landlords from discriminating against
tenants based on lawful sources of income.
7. Stop Housing Discrimination for Victims of Domestic Violence: Discrimination against
victims of domestic violence is almost always discrimination against women – 85% of
domestic violence victims are women. Under current state law, victims of domestic violence
have no protection from discrimination in housing, meaning landlords can evict victims of
domestic violence under zero-tolerance policies. This amendment to the Human Rights Law
would protect victims of domestic violence from discrimination when they attempt to
purchase, rent, or lease housing. In addition, the new law would prohibit landlords from
inquiring about domestic violence victim status, as well as create an eviction defense in
housing court requiring judges to consider facts related to domestic violence in their
8. Stop Pregnancy Discrimination Once and For All: In order to adequately protect the rights
of pregnant workers, it is necessary to create a specific protection in the Human Rights Law
requiring employers to provide a reasonable accommodation for pregnancy-related
conditions. Once amended, New York State law will serve as a model for all other states in
the nation seeking to protect pregnant women from discrimination in the workplace.
9. Protect Victims of Domestic Violence by Strengthening Order-of-Protection Laws:
Women face too many obstacles in securing protection from their abusers. Requiring victims
of domestic violence victims seeking an order of protection to be in physical proximately to
their abuser in court may be traumatic, unsafe, intimidating, and may ultimately influence
testimony. This amendment will ensure that victims of domestic violence will be allowed to
provide all required testimony by video-conference.
10. Protect a Woman’s Freedom of Choice by Enacting the Reproductive Health Act: New
York was a national leader protecting choice even before the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade
decision. Governor Cuomo will continue to vigorously protect a woman’s right to choose.
Therefore, he will fight for passage of the Reproductive Health Act, which will protect the
fundamental right of reproductive freedom and a woman’s right to make private health care
decisions. A woman facing an unplanned or problem pregnancy should have the opportunity
to make the best decision for herself and her family, whether her decision is continuing the
pregnancy, adoption, or abortion.