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On All Women's Equal Pay Day, new calls to ban interview questions about salary history

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

Erie County Government is observing All Women's Equal Pay Day, a day marked to raise awareness of ongoing gaps in pay between women and men. Elected leaders are marking the day by urging support for a statewide ban on wage-history discrimination.

Women's advocates say there remains a discrepancy in pay between women and men, despite the fact that wage equity legislation was signed as far back as 1963 by President John F. Kennedy.

"According to the Institute for Women's Policy Research, drawing from the US Census Bureau's American Community Survey Data, women in New York State make approximately 89 cents on the dollar compared to white men," said Karen King, executive director of Erie County Commission on the Status of Women. "In Erie County, it is approximately 78 cents compared to white men."

The pay gaps are even wider for women of color, advocates say.

Erie County Legislature Majority Leader April Baskin on Tuesday introduced a resolution that, if passed by her peers, would express their support for a statewide ban on the practice of employers using salary history to set wages for a potential hire.

"Being undervalued in one job can condemn a women to a cycle of being suppressed by her wages for the rest of her career," Baskin said. "Preventing employers from using an applicant's current salary to determine their prospective pay is one way we can break this cycle."  

All Women's Equal Pay Day, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz noted, symbolizes the final day in the second year that a woman must work to match the wages her male counterpart earned the previous calendar year alone. 

Legislator Barbara Miller-Williams said pay disparity, and using it to continue that disparity, is simply not fair. Many women, she noted, offer primary care for children, for parents or other family members.

"When you ask about salary history, it harms women who seek to re-enter the workforce, since their last salary may no longer reflect current market conditions or their current qualifications," she said. "By assuming a woman is even able to achieve pay parity later in her career, the initial disparity and pay has an impact on their retirement accounts as well as Social Security benefits."

The Assembly has passed such a proposal but it's still under consideration in the Senate.

Governor Cuomo, meanwhile, announced on Tuesday a proposal to prevent any public or private entities doing business with New York State from utilizing wage-history discrimination.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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