Earlier this year, two pieces of legislation were passed that might have a significant effect on small business owners operating in the states of New York and California. Here’s a look at these new wage equality laws and the ways that they will likely affect independent companies operating in other states.

What the new laws stipulate

On Jan. 1, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law new regulations that now require businesses operating in the state to pay male and female workers the same amount of money for doing “substantially similar” work. On Jan. 19, legislation signed into law by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo took effect, intending to offer a greater degree of protection to women against a variety of crimes including sex trafficking and wage discrimination. Specifically, it prohibits employers from paying women less money than men for doing the same work. Both laws also have provisions prohibiting employers from retaliating against employees who’ve discussed their wages with their coworkers. It is also made easier for workers who feel discriminated against to take legal action.

Why equal pay laws won’t be limited to two states

With the ratification of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, employers nationwide were prohibited against practicing sexual discrimination with regards to the hiring, promoting, compensating and firing of their employees. Despite that law being on the books, many employers have been cited for not paying their male and female employees for doing the same jobs, and the new equal pay laws in New York and California were enacted to address that issue. As this legislation was put in place with bipartisan and widespread public support, it stands to reason that other states will soon begin adopting similar laws across the country.

What you should do going forward

Given the severe public backlash and sizable out-of-court settlements that tend to follow sexual discrimination complaints, small business owners should make sure that their companies are in full compliance with the law. If you feel the need to change your company policy in response to the passage of these laws, it’s a good idea to do so with the assistance of an experienced labor attorney with the skills and experience to help you amend your policies in a way that will minimize your exposure to potential liability.


This article was written by Mario McKellop for Small Business Pulse



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