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Suffolk legislators pass bill to address wage gap for women, minorities

In a unanimous vote, lawmakers approve bill backed by County Executive Steve Bellone to forbid potential employers to ask about an applicant's past job income.

Suffolk County legislator Rudolph A. Sunderman, listens during

Suffolk County legislator Rudolph A. Sunderman, listens during a Suffolk County legislative meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2018. Photo Credit: James Carbone

Suffolk lawmakers passed legislation Tuesday that would bar employers from asking a job applicant’s salary and benefit history during hiring under a bill aimed to reduce pay inequity for women and minorities.

The Suffolk Legislature passed the measure, which was sponsored by County Executive Steve Bellone, 17-0.

“This first of its kind measure on Long Island will help shrink the pay gap for women and people of color in the workplace,” Bellone said in a statement after the bill passed. He is expected to sign the bill, which would go into effect June 30.

Legislative counsel George Nolan said a federal judge had struck down parts of a similar measure in Philadelphia on First Amendment grounds, but that ruling is being appealed.

Legis. Bridget Fleming (D-Noyac) said disclosing salary history “locks women into a lower salary stream.”

According to the state Department of Labor, women in Suffolk County make 78.1 percent of what their male counterparts make, compared with an 86.8 percent statewide average.

Legis. Steve Flotteron (R- Brightwaters) moved to delay a vote on the bill. He said some studies have suggested the gender wage gap is a myth.

That brought sharp rebukes from lawmakers.

“This is not based on emotion,” Fleming said. “This is not based on a myth.”

Legis. Susan Berland (D-Dix Hills) said: “To say this doesn’t exist is just wrong.”

Flotteron then withdrew his motion for the delay and voted for the measure.

Lawmakers also approved spending $150,000 for the design of a new police K-9 office.

Republicans had wanted the county executive to do the work in house, but the administration said their engineers and architects were busy on other projects, and suggested the work was too specialized.

Legis. Rudy Sunderman (R-Shirley) broke with the Republican caucus, saying he voted in favor of a new office because it would provide a “proper place” for the dogs and handlers.

Republicans have argued the county is borrowing too much for work that could be done more cheaply by county workers.

In addition, legislators unanimously approved an anti-“revenge porn” bill that prohibits the disclosure or distribution of intimate images, without the depicted individual’s consent. Violations would be punishable by fines up to $1,000 or by bringing a civil case holding the defendant liable.

“This is necessary legislation to criminalize an activity that most people believe is illegal,” said bill sponsor William Lindsay (D-Bohemia).

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