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Springville Journal editorial: Let’s drag New York into the 21st century

SPRINGVILLE — While looking out for the ladies, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently introduced legislation that would promote equality for women, in the workplace.

Despite this sounding like something America hashed out, years ago, Cuomo’s women’s equality act comes on the heels of a Wall Street Journal poll that showed that most females still say they face discrimination, in the workplace.

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics said that American women, working full time, earn 79 percent of the weekly pay men bring home. The New York number is also disproportionate, with female workers’ earning, on average, 16 percent less than their male counterparts.

According to Cuomo, the average woman working in New York state will earn a total of $500,000 less, during her lifetime, than the average working man. The average woman is paid $42,113, per year, in the state, while the average man makes $50,388, per year. “In 2013, this is both inexcusable and absurd,” Cuomo said, echoing the sentiments of women, all over the country.

The Institute for Women’s Policy Research reported that “women’s median earnings lag men’s, in almost every occupation.”

The issues go beyond the paycheck. Sexual harassment is currently banned in only workplaces with four or more employees, although the governor pointed out that more than 60 percent of New York businesses have fewer than four employees.

Many women polled, in the April study, said that they are simply not given the same treatment as their male counterparts. “I could go to a meeting and offer an opinion and it was like I didn’t say a word,” said Christine Dale of Illinois. “A guy can offer the same opinion and it’s like, ‘Oh, that’s brilliant.’”

In a number that has actually increased, since a similar poll was taken in 2000, 46 percent of women reported that they have experienced discrimination in the workplace, because of their gender.

Cuomo is also calling for an end to pregnancy and family status discrimination, pointing out that many workplaces do not accommodate workers with children or pregnant women whose medical conditions require “reasonable accommodations in the workplace.”

The new bill would prohibit employers from denying work or promotions to employees, “simply because they have children.”

Cuomo also called for an end to housing discrimination, for victims of domestic violence and low-income families, and created a system that would allow victims of domestic violence to obtain temporary orders of protection electronically, rather than in person.

The new women’s equality bill would eliminate the “requirement that coercion be proven in a sex trafficking prosecution, when the victims of sex trafficking are minors.”

Employers are given even more of a reason to take their female employees seriously, thanks to another clause in the bill, which would make it easier for plaintiffs to pursue – and win – employment discrimination cases.

The fly in the ointment, for me, is the bill’s inclusion of an abortion clause that would make it easier for women to obtain a procedure I will and can never support.

But I believe Cuomo is on the right track, with the rest of his legislation and applaud him for standing up for those of us who are working hard to make a living, in a state where “girl power” ends at the corporate front door.

To quote a lady who knows all about juggling a home and a work life, “we’re smart enough to make these millions, strong enough to bear the children, then get back to business.”

We work just as hard as the guys do and put in the same long hours. It’s time employees get with the program and take their women seriously. The 10 million female New York voters say so.

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