The League of Women Voters of NYS is among the more than 280 organizations that has signed on to the ten-point Women’s Equality Agenda as announced today on Governor Andrew Cuomo’s website.
A majority of Leagues from around the state have already signed on to the Agenda, which includes goals to eliminate discrimination and sexual harassment against women in the job market, protect pregnant women and victims of domestic violence or human trafficking, empower women to make their own reproductive health decisions.
Organizations signing onto the Women’s Equality Agenda represent diverse groups from the grassroots, labor, religious, business, health, social service and women’s rights sectors.
Protect a Woman’s Freedom of Choice by Enacting the Reproductive Health Act: New York was a national leader protecting choice even before the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision. Governor Cuomo will continue to vigorously protect a woman’s right to choose. Therefore, he will fight for passage of the Reproductive Health Act, which will protect the fundamental right of reproductive freedom and a woman’s right to make private health care decisions. A woman facing an unplanned or problem pregnancy should have the opportunity to make the best decision for herself and her family, whether her decision is continuing the pregnancy, adoption, or abortion.
Achieve Pay Equity: Women in New York earn 84% of what men earn. This wage gap is even more severe for African-American and Hispanic Women, who earn 66% and 55% of that earned by non-Hispanic men in New York State, respectively. This amendment to the current law would ensure that women receive the wages they were always entitled to, as well as provide for an additional amount of liquidated damages equal to 300% of the back wages due. This new law would also tighten current exceptions so that pay differentials are only allowed when the employer can show that the differential is based on something other than sex and is related to job performance. Additionally, the proposal will prohibit employers from terminating or retaliating against employees who share wage information, a practice that enables wage disparities to persist undetected.
Stop Sexual Harassment in the Workplace: Three quarters of the sexual harassment charges filed in this State are filed by women. This amendment to the current law would protect workers from sexual and other forms of harassment regardless of the size of the workplace. Under the new law, an employee of any business, large or small, may file a complaint for sexual harassment.
Allow for the Recovery of Attorneys’ Fees in Employment and Credit and Lending Cases: Over 75% of the employment and credit and lending cases in this State are filed by women. The current law states that an individual cannot recover attorneys’ fees for employment and credit and lending discrimination cases even after proving discrimination at trial.
As a result (a) many who are discriminated against never seek redress; (b) those who hire an attorney on a contingency fee arrangement are not “made whole” for their losses because they must pay for their attorneys out of their recovery; and (c) some who cannot afford to hire an attorney, but who try to do so on a contingency basis, are unsuccessful because the case is either too small or too risky.
End Family Status Discrimination: Women with children are less likely to be recommended for hire and promoted, and, in most cases are offered less in salary than similarly situated men. This proposal would amend the current law to prohibit employers from denying work or promotion to workers simply because they have children.
Stop Source-of-Income Discrimination: Many households suffer discrimination by landlords who are-unwilling to rent to voucher holders. Female-headed households account for 76% of all housing choice vouchers issued, including section 8 vouchers. This amendment to the Human Rights Law will prohibit landlords from discriminating against tenants based on lawful sources of income.
Stop Housing Discrimination for Victims of Domestic Violence: Discrimination against victims of domestic violence is almost always discrimination against women – 85% of domestic violence victims are women. Under current state law, victims of domestic violence have no protection from discrimination in housing, meaning landlords can evict victims of domestic violence under zero tolerance policies. This amendment to the Human Rights Law would protect victims of domestic violence from discrimination when they attempt to purchase, rent, or lease housing. In addition, the new law would prohibit landlords from inquiring about domestic violence victim status, as well as create an eviction defense in housing court requiring judges to consider facts related to domestic violence in their decision-making.
Stop Pregnancy Discrimination Once and For All: In order to adequately protect the rights of pregnant workers, it is necessary to create a specific protection in the Human Rights Law requiring employers to provide a reasonable accommodation for pregnancy-related conditions. Once amended, New York State law will serve as a model for all other states in the nation seeking to protect pregnant women from discrimination in the workplace.
Protect Victims of Domestic Violence by Strengthening Order-of-Protection Laws: Women face too many obstacles in securing protection from their abusers. Requiring domestic violence victims seeking an order of protection to be in physical proximity to their abuser in court may be traumatic, unsafe, intimidating, and may ultimately influence testimony. This amendment will ensure that victims of domestic violence will be allowed to provide all required testimony by video-conference.
The first day of the 2013 legislative session was like none I have experienced in decades. It started with pink in early morning and ended with guns after midnight.
Monday, January 14 was Family Planning Advocates’ (FPA) lobby day. There was a sea of pink in the well of the LOB as men and women, all wearing vivid pink scarfs or ties, gathered to rally support for the Reproductive Health Act (RHA). This year, however, there was a twist.
Following Governor Cuomo’s State of the State address announcing the Women’s Equity Act – which includes the RHA – FPA displayed signs that read “Women’s Equity” Act. This new initiative includes ten issues which, when taken together, will enhance women’s economic, safety and reproductive health.
Back in the well of the LOB, the Lieutenant Governor attended and spoke on the initiative for the Governor. Speaker Silver followed, with a pink scarf draped around his shoulder like a shawl, and spoke eloquently about pay equity and the RHA. He was surrounded by scores of Assembly members. Several Democratic Senators also spoke, including Jeff Klein, the new co-leader of the Majority Coalition in the Senate. For the rest of Monday, pink scarved men and women weaved their way through the halls of the LOB and the Capitol.
For weeks after the tragedy at Newtown, CT, Governor Cuomo had been negotiating a package of strong gun control measures with legislative leaders. The deal between the new Majority Coalition Conference in the Senate and the Assembly leadership was sealed at about 4:00 PM on Monday afternoon.
Once the bill was printed the Senate began debate at about 10:30 PM, with several Dems speaking in support – including Senator Jeff Klein, the Senate Co-leader. Only two Republicans spoke, including Senator Ball who condemned the bill as a crass political move by the Governor to run for President. The Senate passed the bill 43 to 18 shortly after midnight.
Speaker Silver scheduled his chamber’s debate for 10:00 AM Tuesday to give the Assembly Minority time to conference the bill. After a five hour debate where every Republican and several Democratic Assembly members spoke, the bill passed by a vote of 104 to 43. It had been 13 years since the Legislature had addressed gun control.
This has to be seen as a major success for Governor Cuomo as he begins this new session. It is also a success for the League as we have had a position on strong gun control since 1990, although with respect to process we agree with our good government colleagues and the editorial board of the New York Times that pushing this complex bill through using a message of necessity did not allow for appropriate public discussion and a transparent legislative process.
Written by Barbara Bartoletti, LWVNYS Legislative Director
Follow Barbara’s blog: http://lwvny-capitolbeat.blogspot.com/