Will the New York Women’s Equality Act Affect Your Small Business?
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How the New York Women’s Equality Act Affects Your Small Business

On Jan. 19, 2016, the New York Women’s Equality Act went into effect. The Act, which protects women’s equality, addresses some employment issues. If you are an employer located in New York state, you should examine the law. You might need to revisit your business’s employment policies.

Below are the parts of the Act that might affect your small business.

Pay Equity

The Act prohibits employers from paying employees different wages based on sex. In New York, there is an average wage gap of $8,275 between full-time working men and women.

If you are an employer in New York, you must be able to prove that you based differences in employee pay on a “bona fide” factor, such as education or experience. The Act protects equal pay for women as long as these “bona fide” factors equate for male and female employees.

When you set employee wages, you should document how you determined the wage amount. Write down everything that helped you reach your decision. This can include differences in education, training, experience, and seniority. This will help you if there is ever a wage dispute.

The New York Women’s Equality Act also says you can not prohibit employees from discussing their wages. You can create a written policy that limits the time, place, and manner that employees discuss wages. If you do this, you must provide the policy to all employees.

End to discrimination based on family status

Under the New York Women’s Equality Act, you can not deny someone work or a promotion based on their family status or an anticipated change in family status. Family status refers to people who are pregnant, have a child, or are in the process of gaining legal custody of a child.

This means you cannot refuse someone work or advancement because they have children or are pregnant.

When hiring and promoting employees, you might want to document why you chose—or did not choose—someone.

Accommodation for pregnant employees

You must provide employees with reasonable accommodations if they have a pregnancy-related medical condition. You should treat the condition as a temporary disability.

Stopping sexual harassment in the workplace

The law protects all employees from sexual harassment in all workplaces. Previously, sexual harassment laws only protected employees at businesses with four or more employees. State law now includes protection of employees that work at businesses with fewer than four employees. More than 60% of New York’s private employers have fewer than four employees.

If you have fewer than four employees, you should include a sexual harassment policy in your employee handbook. You should also create a way for employees to submit complaints.

Other parts of the New York Women’s Equality Act

There are even more parts to the Women’s Equality Act that do not directly relate to businesses. These sections include:

  • Tougher penalties against those who traffic other people.
  • An end to housing discrimination against domestic violence victims.
  • Recovery of attorney’s fees for those who are successful in employment or credit discrimination cases based on sex.

It is good to be aware of the Act’s other parts even if they do not directly affect your business.

You can learn more about the New York Women’s Equality Act and its many parts by visiting New York state government websites.

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