Legislative Women’s Caucus: Women’s Equality Laws Enacted!

On October 21, 2015 Governor Cuomo signed 8 bills into law that further New York State’s efforts to protect Women’s rights and further efforts for Women’s equality. On Tuesday January 19, 2016 these laws took effect. The laws enacted today designed to put a stop to gender discrimination and inequality. New York State has consistently been on the forefront since the beginning of the Women’s Suffrage movement in Seneca Falls NY in 1848. The signing of these 8 bills into law demonstrates New York State’s continued commitment to Women’s Equality.

These 8 laws enacted today will help to:

Outlaw Pay Discrimination based on gender: Chapter 362 outlaws differential pay because of sex by closing a loophole in New York’s equal pay law that allows employers to justify paying female employees less, outlaws workplace wage secrecy policies, and increases damages available to the plaintiff to 300% of unpaid wages.

Protect victims of sexual harassment: Chapter 363 strengthens protections against sexual harassment to include workplaces with four or fewer employees as well as helping to ensure that employees are not forced to choose between continuing their career and starting a family.

Remove Barriers to Resolving Discrimination: Chapter 364 allows successful plaintiffs to recuperate attorneys’ fees in employment or credit discrimination cases based on sex. This law enables victims, most of whom are women, to have the opportunity to vindicate their rights in cases where they prevail.

End Family Status Discrimination Chapter 365 prohibits discrimination in employment based on familial status. Women are consistently stereotyped within the work place and are less likely to be recommended for hire or promoted due to their assumed familial status.

Protect Victims of Domestic Violence from Housing Discrimination Chapter 366 prohibits discrimination by landlords on tenants because of the individuals domestic violence status and establishes a task force to study impact of source of income in relation to access to housing.

Protect Victims of Domestic Violence by Strengthening Order-of-Protection Laws Chapter 367 establishes a pilot program in family courts that would allow victims of domestic violence to petition remotely via audio-visual means to obtain temporary orders of protection. It will provide victims of domestic violence a safer and more accessible avenue for obtaining a temporary order of protection (i.e.: testifying from a remote location).

Strengthen Human Trafficking Laws Chapter 368 establishes the “trafficking victims protection and justice act”. This act has better protection to survivors of human trafficking, by treating survivors as victims. The act increases penalties to punish offenders by creating an affirmative defense to a prostitution charge that the individual was a trafficking victim. It also increases penalties across the board for human trafficking and labor trafficking; creating new offenses, in increasing degrees, of aggravated patronizing a minor; and creating a civil action for victims of trafficking against their perpetrators.

Protect Women from Pregnancy Discrimination Chapter 369 requires that reasonable accommodations be made for pregnant women in the workplace.

Legislative Women’s Caucus Chair Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo remarked: “Today, New York is taking important steps in the fight against discrimination and continuing to lead the way in ensuring equality for all. With these new laws, New York is guaranteeing protections for women and their families on a range of issues.”

The Legislative Women’s Caucus remains committed to ensuring equal rights for New York women. For more information about the laws enacted or any other community issue, please don’t hesitate to contact the Legislative Women’s Caucus office at 518-455-4347 or lwc@assembly.state.ny.us.