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Legislative Memo

BILL:

A.5416 (DiNapoli)

Support

SUBJECT:

Comparable Worth

 

DATE:

March 26, 2001

 

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 Human Rights Law, making it a discriminatory practice to pay employees of different sexes for work that is of comparable worth.

For more than 35 years, equal pay for equal work has been and continues to be the law for both public and private employers. These laws have created a vigorous standard and require employers to pay male and female 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 of the employee.

These statutes even contain flexibility in the definition of "equal work." Equal does not mean identical but rather, "substantially equal." Minor differences in degree or amount of skill or effort or responsibility required for the performance of a job does not render the equal pay standard inapplicable.

The theory of comparable worth is about equal pay for different work. It 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 different 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. 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 wages 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.

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 need to 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.

The concept of comparable worth has been rejected by the courts and should be rejected by you.

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