STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. A package of women's equality bills signed into law in Albany on Wednesday includes laws on pay equity and human trafficking that Sens. Diane Savino and Andrew Lanza have for years been passing in the Senate, only to see the bills die in the Assembly.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the package of eight bills into law after they passed last session in the state Legislature.
The bill, sponsored by Savino (DNorth Shore/Brooklyn), ensures pay equity for women by prohibiting employers from paying women less for doing the same work as men.
The law also allows for up to 300 percent of unpaid wages to be paid in damages for women who had been unfairly compensated.
"Today, New York takes a big step toward recognizing women's rights in the workforce," Savino said in a statement. "These measures strengthen protections and prevent discrimination in pay for New York women. Pay equity is long overdue and this common sense bill ensures that the hardworking women of New York have the chance to earn the same wages as their male counterparts."
Another bill, sponsored by Lanza (RStaten Island), strengthens existing law to fight human trafficking by eliminating barriers to prosecuting traffickers, increasing penalties and fighting prostitution charges of the woman involved was a victim of trafficking.
"Human trafficking is a modern version of the slave trade and a devastating human rights violation that is occurring in our own backyards," Lanza said in a statement. "Here in New York, thousands of innocent people are bought and sold like property each year. I'm proud to have authored and passed the longawaited Trafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act to enhance protections for trafficking victims and hold those who exploit them accountable."
Another bill that was signed into law protects victims of sexual harassment by expanding the definition of employer to cover all workers, while another gives successful plaintiffs in sexual discrimination cases the ability to recover attorneys fees.
Another law prohibits employers from discriminating against workers based on their familial status and another requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees.
Two bills protect domestic violence victims: the first prevents housing discrimination and the second establishs a pilot program that allows victims to seek temporary orders of protection electronically, rather than appearing in person.
Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (REast Shore/Brooklyn) had previously criticized thenSpeaker Sheldon Silver for presenting the package of bills together as a group, including a ninth bill that would have bolstered abortion provisions. That controversial bill for years held up passage of the other eight in the Assembly.
Earlier this year, Silver resigned from the speaker post, which went to Bronx Assemblyman Carl Heastie.
"Today we witness history as our governor signed eight critical bills into law to ensure equality and protections for women across New York State," Malliotakis said in a statement. "I applaud my colleagues in the legislature, as well as Gov. Cuomo, for putting aside political agendas once and for all and working together to protect women from unfair treatment. For too long these bills were disgracefully held hostage and used as a political football during election years."