As an employee, you have a right to equal pay for equal work. But when you find out your employer has been paying you less based upon your sex, race, religion, or disability, you have a right to seek legal action. Pay discrimination is a serious offense in New York. Do not wait for your employer to do right by you. Seek legal action now. The New York employment attorneys of Brown Kwon & Lam are here for you.
New York Equal Pay Act
In July 2019, former Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill into law that expanded the New York Equal Pay Act, which expanded pay protections. This was achieved by requiring employers to provide employees with equal pay for “substantially similar” work. This applies to all work across protected categories under the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL). Those categories include:
- National origin
- Sexual orientation
- Gender identity or expression
- Military status
- Marital status
The bill works to ensure that all of the above categories be paid at a wage that is equal to an employee outside the same protected class in the same work environment. Specifically, they are to be paid equally for equal work or “substantially similar work, when viewed as a composite of skill, effort, and responsibility, and performed under similar working conditions.”
In addition to expanding these protected groups, it also places less of a burden on employees to prove wage discrimination by requiring the employers to pay at equal rates for “substantially similar” work.
To prove discrimination did not occur, an employer would still need to show that the pay difference was justified. Higher pay can be justified by:
- Quantity or quality production
- Prior experience
Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
In addition to the New York state employment laws, there are federal protections for employees in regards to minimum wage and overtime pay requirements.
Under the FLSA, employees are entitled to a minimum wage of at least $7.25 per hour. This also establishes the state’s overtime pay after working over 40 hours in a workweek. The rate is at least one and one-half times an employee’s regular rate of pay.
There are exceptions to the FLSA. This includes employees who are:
- An executive employee
- An administrative employee
- Classified under the “learned professional” or “creative professional”
While FLSA establishes the federal baseline for employee pay and overtime, it also leaves room for common violations in the workplace. Common violations under FLSA include:
- Misclassifying salaried employees as exempt
- Misclassifying employees as independent contractors
- Failure to pay employees for all time worked, including overtime/“off the clock”
- Having employees work during meal breaks.
- Deducting time from an employee’s hours for an allotted break of fewer than 20 minutes.
Restrictions on Wage Discussions
Under the Labor Law act, employers cannot restrict employees from inquiring about, discussing, or disclosing wages with other employees. But, an employer can create a written policy that limits the time, place, and manner of those inquiries. This includes workday and workplace limitations.
However, it is unlawful for these policies to be so restrictive that employees cannot engage in such a discussion. While employees may say they wish to not discuss their wages, an employer cannot make that decision for them.
Filing a Pay Discrimination Claim
Filing a pay discrimination claim may seem daunting. But you do not have to go at it alone. You can either file the claim yourself or work with a lawyer, social worker, or union steward to undergo the process.
However, there are things you need to include in your discrimination complaint. They include:
- The name and address of the organization which discriminates against you
- How, why, and when you believe the discrimination took place
- The types of discrimination you think are involved in the case
- The names of any people who were involved in the discrimination
- Any supporting information
Once you realize that pay discrimination has occurred, you have 180 days to file your complaint.
Retaliation Against Pay Discrimination Claims
Upon filing your pay discrimination claim, know that it is illegal for your employer to retaliate against you. Retaliation includes adverse actions against an employee by an employer due to the employee exercising their rights under the labor laws.
The actions are not limited to being job-related, nor do they need to occur in the workplace. The actions can be anything that would have an impact on a reasonable worker from supporting a charge of discrimination. In addition, these actions can also occur once the individual is no longer employed where the pay discrimination took place.
In that sense, an act of retaliation may include:
- A negative reference for the former employee.
- Changing disciplinary actions as a result of the claim.
When pay discrimination occurs in the workplace resulting in inadequate payment or retaliation after speaking up, know that you have a team ready to stand firm in your case.
Pay Discrimination, New York: Brown Kwon & Lam
If you believe you have been a victim of pay discrimination in the workplace, do not delay. The employment attorneys of Brown Kwon & Lam will aggressively pursue your case so that justice is served. Contact our firm today.