The Chief Leader
May 8, 2009
State Senator Diane Savino joined with state Commissioner of Labor M. Patricia Smith last week to advocate for the passage of the New York State Fair Pay Act, which would allow the Labor Department to review cases of pay disparity for women who work in state government.
"It's been 40 years since the passage of the Equal Pay Act and here we are, almost a full generation and a half past, yet we have still not achieved pay equity for women," Ms. Savino said. "Part of the wage gap results from differences in education, experience or time in the workforce. But, the reality is, some jobs pay less simply because they are dominated by women."
A prime example, according to Ms. Savino, is the $6,000 disparity in pay between workers at the Administration for Children's Services, which is traditionally staffed by women, and those who work at the maledominated state Division of Parole. Initial jobs in those two agencies often involve similar work and their occupants even work on the same cases. Ms. Savino said because of the pay disparity, ACS often encounters a brain drain as its workers take the Parole test when available, citing her own observations when she worked in the city social service system.
"The fact is, this bill is beneficial to all of us," she said. "When women earn more, the entire family, both male and female, have access to better health care, educational opportunities, and the chance to advance themselves."
Forty years ago, when the first equal pay act was passed, women made 59 cents for every dollar a man earned. Today, Ms. Savino said, women only make 77 cents on the dollar compared to men. "Here we are 40 years later and there is still a huge disparity," she said in a telephone interview. "We still have not achieved equal status."
The bill, if enacted, would allow workers to file complaints with the Department of Labor about pay inequality based on gender. It requires employers to evaluate and compensate jobs based on skill, effort, responsibility, and working conditions. The Labor Department would make recommendations about which titles were subject to pay inequity. It would also protect women against retaliation from management if they asked co-workers how much they were making.
The legislation would cost the state more money at a time of great economic duress, but Ms. Savino said now was as good a time as any. "Business will tell you there is never a good time to address wage discrimination," she said.