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Legislative Memo

BILL:

A.236 (Grannis)

Support

SUBJECT:

Comparable Worth

 

DATE:

April 12, 2002

 

The Business Council of New York State, whose membership includes over 4,000 member firms as well as hundreds of chambers of commerce and professional trade associations, has reviewed the above mentioned legislation and opposes its enactment.

This legislation would amend New York State's Civil Service Law by introducing the concept of comparable worth as the state policy for determining and setting salaries. It would also expand the existing statutes beyond simply prohibiting wage discrimination based on the gender of the employee.

For 39 years, equal pay for equal work has been and continues to be the law for both public and private employers. This issue is covered by the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and similar state statutes. These laws have created a vigorous standard and require employers to pay male and female, minority and non-minority employees the same wages if they are doing work "substantially equal" in skill, effort, responsibility and working conditions. These existing laws already make unlawful any wage differentials based on the sex or race of the employee. These existing laws make it unnecessary to enact new additional legislation.

The main foundations for determining what pay should be for particular work are market considerations. The market reflects a balancing of what employers are willing to pay for a skill or service with how much it costs to supply them. Market prices are the result of supply and demand. The higher the demand for the skill or service, the higher the pay and, likewise, the lower the demand, the lower the pay.

This legislation states that despite New York State's requirement for equal pay for equal work in Section 115 of the Civil Service Law, jobs have been segregated by sex, race and national origin and "...may have been undervalued..." and now need a legislative remedy. No facts about this unlawful segregation or who is responsible for it are provided. This bill would make the so called undervaluation itself illegal, and equates it to unlawful gender discrimination.

The theory of comparable worth rejects the market involvement in the determination of pay (supply and demand) and substitutes a so-called objective independent assessment of the "value" of the work. The purpose of such a process is to insure that the "value" of jobs held by women is equal to the "value" of jobs held by men. Any lawful, non-discriminatory reasons why employees of one sex hold certain jobs and employees of the opposite sex hold other jobs are ignored and are purposely excluded from the process. Since the value of a job changes and differs from person to person, jobs have subjective characteristics. The market is a large part of the mechanism for determining this subjective value.

Comparable worth would replace the equality of opportunity with the equality of results, using legislation and government regulation. To be implemented, a new "Comparable Worth Bureau" would be created at significant cost to New York State individual and business taxpayers. In addition, thousands of municipalities across the state would be forced to deal with another new unfunded mandate.

For these reasons, The Business Council opposes this legislation and respectfully urges that it not be enacted by the Assembly.