News Release - Mayor Thomas S. Richards Joins in Community Support of Governor Cuomo’s Women’s Equality Act

City of Rochester

News Release

 (Wednesday, June 12, 2013) – Standing with a community coalition today at City Hall, Mayor Richards called upon leaders of the New York State Legislature to take swift action to pass Governor Cuomo’s Women’s Equality Act (WEA). “New Yorkers have long led the way in expanding civil rights throughout the country,” said Mayor Richards. “Our own Susan B. Anthony was on forefront in the fight for women’s rights and she continues to inspire us today. While she blazed the trail in the struggle for equality, a long road is still ahead of us. The Women’s Equality Act once again brings New York to the forefront of advancing women’s rights.”

“I applaud Mayor Tom Richards for standing with the Women's Equality Coalition today in support of this legislation,” said Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. “The women's rights movement began right here in the Finger Lakes region in Seneca Falls - so it is especially fitting that we highlight the ongoing fight to achieve full equality for women in Rochester today. New York has always been a progressive leader, and the Women's Equality Act that I have proposed will restore and reinforce that proud reputation. This legislation advances all areas of women’s rights, from achieving equal pay to stopping sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace to protecting domestic violence victims. We cannot rest until our mothers, daughters, wives and sisters get the equal rights that they deserve.”

Mayor Richards was joined by Jean Carroll, YWCA President and CEO, Hilda Rosario Escher, president and CEO of Ibero-American Action League, Jaime Saunders CEO of Alternatives for Battered Women, Karen Nelson, CEO, Planned Parenthood of Western New York, Essie Calhoun-McDavid, retired Chief Diversity and Community Affairs Officer at Eastman Kodak Company, KaeLyn Rich, Director of the NYCLU’s Genesee Valley Chapter and the regional leader of the New York Equality Coalition, Finger Lakes Region and Deborah Hughes, President and CEO of the Susan B. Anthony House. These community activists have joined the Women’s Equality Coalition, comprised of more than 850 organizations and businesses across the state. “Each of the issues included in the Governor’s Act, relate specifically to the women we serve at the YWCA and to women in our community on a daily basis.” said Jean Carroll.

Also in attendance of today’s support rally were: Ann Marie Cook, President and CEO, Lifespan; Kathy Smith, League of Women Voters; Linda Stephens, National Organization for Women (NOW) Rochester President; Monroe County Legislators Carrie Andrews and Cindy Kaleh; Fran Weisberg, Executive Director of the Finger Lakes Health Systems Agency and City Councilmembers Carolee Conklin and Elaine Spaull.
The Women’s Equality Act--introduced by Governor Cuomo on June 4 alongside members of the Women’s Equality Coalition—is designed to end discrimination and inequality based on gender throughout New York.

The Act affirms a woman’s freedom of choice by codifying federal court rulings. “Governor Cuomo’s Women’s Equality Act has been mischaracterized,” said Betty DeFazio, Executive Director of Community Affairs and Public Policy, Planned Parenthood. “Despite these efforts, support for the Governor's Women's Equality Act continues to grow. Eight hundred-fifty organizations and businesses from across the state have publicly stated they support the Act. Further, a Quinnipiac University poll released last week shows that New Yorkers back the Women’s Equality Act by more than two to one. Clearly, New Yorkers are ready for women’s equality.”

The Act covers women in the workplace by ensuring they receive the wages they are entitled to. “Women in New York earn 84 percent of what men earn, and will earn $500,000 less than men over a lifetime,” said Hilda Rosario Escher. “The Governor’s plan shatters the glass ceiling and allows women to maximize their economic potential. We know that when women are successful, our state prospers.”

The Women’s Equality Act protects women from sexual harassment in the workplace by adopting a zero-tolerance policy for all employers. “Women disproportionately suffer sexual harassment and most employers in New York are exempt from sexual harassment laws because they employ too few workers to trigger protection under the law,” explains Essie Calhoun-McDavid. “It may come as a surprise that current State law only prohibits sexual harassment in workplaces with four or more employees, so the proposed change is both necessary and obvious.”

In addition, the Governor’s proposed legislation protects victims of domestic violence by strengthening order-of-protection laws. “Alternatives for Battered Women exists to enhance the quality of life and empower individuals affected by or at risk of domestic violence,” said Jaime Saunders. “If approved, the Women’s Equality Act would remove some of the obstacles that victims of domestic violence often face when trying to protect themselves; a critical first step that victims must take.”

The Act prevents pregnancy discrimination so women won’t have to chose between their health and their paychecks. According to the Women’s Equality Coalition, three quarters of women entering the workforce will be pregnant and employed at some point in their lives. “Some of these women may face a conflict between their duties at work and their health needs, and current protections for working pregnant women are often confusing,” said KaeLyn Rich. “Pregnant women often are forced to take unpaid leave when they desire only temporary accommodations, causing a hardship at a time when families cannot afford it. The Women’s Equality Act will protect against this by requiring employers to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant women.”

“I applaud Governor Andrew Cuomo for his leadership in breaking down barriers that enable discrimination and inequality based on gender in this collective and achievable endeavor,” said Mayor Richards. “I urge our state legislative representatives to act with alacrity on the Governor’s Women’s Equality Act to make New York a better place for all.”


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