Talking Equal Pay — And Salary Transparency

At CB8, discussion of impending “Salary Transparency Law” that may combat the wage gap

| 01 Apr 2022 | 06:02

Sometime after Helen Rosenthal, former City Council member, took her first job in the city, she learned something that stunned her: A male coworker, with the same title and qualifications, was making more money than she. “I did not know there was room to negotiate; It hadn’t crossed my mind to ask for $5,000 more,” Rosenthal said during a Community Board 8 meeting earlier this week.

It’s not an uncommon scenario — women are reported to earn a mere 83 cents to a man’s dollar. Many women of color face an even steeper hill to climb, and for all women, Rosenthal argued, there remains a cultural stigma linked with requesting equal pay. A new local law, some leaders hope, may make a dent.

The “Salary Transparency Law,” as it’s been dubbed, was the topic of conversation during a CB8 Women and Families Committee meeting on March 30 in honor of Women’s History Month. The piece of legislation, passed by the City Council (though lacking signatures from the former or current mayor), is slated to go into effect this May. If all goes to plan, it would mandate that most businesses include, in their job postings, salary ranges — with the intent of championing fairer wages for everyone. “Equal work for equal pay, that’s what this is all about,” said Gloria Middleton, president of the Communications Workers of America Local 1180 union. But not everyone’s on board with the law, at least as it currently stands.

Spreading The Word

Maybe you haven’t heard of the Salary Transparency Law, or Local Law 32, yet — which is exactly why CB8 took it up as the center of their discussion on Wednesday evening. “The more people know about legislation like this and can engage, the better,” Rosenthal said.

Local Law 32, nestled within the New York City Commission on Human Rights, will see businesses notified of their transgressions and ultimately fined should they fail to incorporate salary estimates into their job listing language. It’s an effort, CB8 speakers suggested, to push for greater gender equality in the workforce. “Legislation is one way to kind of break open the systems that keep these inequities really entrenched,” said Beverly Neufeld, president of PowHer New York, which connects organizations statewide on issues relating to equal pay.

Other measures in a similar vein are already at work. A “Salary History Ban,” first enacted in the city and later passed as a statewide measure, bars employers from questioning prospective employees on their previous salaries elsewhere. Legislation similar to the NYC Salary Transparency Law is now also being pushed for at the state level.

Greater pay transparency should benefit employers, too; It’s something job-seekers look for in a workplace, “especially right now, with the Great Resignation,” according to Neufeld.

Uphill Ahead

And yet, the law — as it’s currently written — is now faced with opposition in the form of amendments that speakers at the CB8 meeting claimed would “gut” the original legislation and limit its effectiveness. “The changes sound innocuous” — but they’re not, said Rosenthal.

The “pushback” put forth in a bill of amendments titled Intro 134 stems, Rosenthal said, from an umbrella organization that represents Fortune 500 companies. Of the four amendments proposed, the CB8 committee focused its attention on one in particular, which speakers said would excuse companies with 15 employees or fewer from adhering to the new transparency requirement. An estimated total of 50,000 employees citywide would fall under this category, working at businesses like salons, restaurants and small law firms, environments “rife with inequitable pay,” Rosenthal said.

The proposed amendments also include a delayed start date of November. There will be a hearing for the proposed changes on Tuesday, April 5.

The original bill, if it does in fact go into effect this spring, represents a historic legal achievement — during a historic year for the City Council, no less. “City Council now is majority women,” said CB8 board member Elaine Walsh. “It would be a disgrace if they don’t show some leadership here and make sure that the kept whole.”

“Equal work for equal pay, that’s what this is all about.” Gloria Middleton, president of the Communications Workers of America Local 1180 union