NY expands pay equity law on day honoring US soccer team

With members of the U.S. women's soccer team in the background before the start of a ticker tape parade in their honor, Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks before signing a bill into law Wednesday, July 10, 2019, in New York. The bill will expand a law banning gender pay discrimination to make it illegal for employers to pay workers differently based on their age, race, religion or other characteristics, and making it easier for workers to prove pay discrimination in court. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

ALBANY, N.Y. — New York state expanded a state law Wednesday that prohibits gender pay discrimination, making it illegal to pay someone less based on characteristics including race, religion, disability or gender identity.

Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the changes into law in Manhattan, just before joining the U.S. women's soccer team for a parade in New York City honoring their World Cup victory.

Members of the team have filed a lawsuit demanding pay equity with the men's soccer team, adding fuel to the broader debate over pay disparities that continue to affect millions of American workers.

The new law, which takes effect in 90 days, also changes a legal standard for pay equity to make it easier for employees to prove discrimination in court.

"Every New Yorker deserves equal pay for equal work regardless of race, sexual orientation, disability, or however they choose to identify," said Democratic Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, who represents portions of Westchester County and the Bronx and sponsored the bill in the state Senate.

It's already illegal in New York to pay women less than men for doing the same work, yet compensation for women continues to lag, with white women making 89 cents for every $1 earned by men, according to state statistics. For black and Latina women, the gap is wider. They earn, respectively, 63 cents and 54 cents for every $1 earned by men.

TIME'S UP, an organization that advocates for fairness and against sexual harassment in the workplace, hailed the new law and thanked the soccer players for "their extraordinary courage to play to win on the field, to fight for fairness in court, and to spark a new, global conversation about pay equity."

Cuomo also signed legislation barring employers from demanding prospective workers' salary histories.

During a bill signing ceremony held just before Wednesday's parade, Cuomo said he supports the players' push for equal treatment with the men's team, which failed to qualify for the 2018 men's World Cup.

Cuomo noted the women's victory and strong television ratings for their games could support an argument that the women deserve higher pay than the men.

"You cannot justify that the men get paid more, period," he said.

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