Legislative Memo


A.6691-A (Nolan)/S.6859 (Velella)



Comparable Worth



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 Labor Law, expanding the equal pay for equal work law to include equal pay for different work.

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 a new state law, the New York State Fair Pay Act.

The theory of comparable worth rejects 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 or minorities is equal to the "value" of jobs held by men or non-minorities. For example, this bill considers "...wage differentials based on varying market rates for equivalent jobs..." to be a discriminatory practice, requiring an "equivalent" job in Manhattan to be paid the same as one in Horseheads. Vast numbers of employers use market based salary and wage surveys, which include geographic differentials, industry, revenue and organization size to price their jobs.

Lawful, non-discriminatory reasons why employees of one sex or race hold certain jobs and employees of the opposite sex or another race hold other jobs are ignored and are purposely excluded from the process.

Ironically, comparable worth would strengthen the boundary of traditional female and male jobs. By paying women-dominated professions more through the comparable worth doctrine, even fewer women would be willing to take traditionally non-women, higher paying jobs because the incentive of higher pay would disappear.

In a free market, the value of a job is determined by the supply and demand of workers in a given profession. Pay levels 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.

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 Labor Committee.