Equal pay

Know your rights

Dear New Yorkers,

In the workplace, as elsewhere, women are often treated unequally to men. A woman is often paid less for performing the same work that a man does. And jobs traditionally performed by women are often underpaid. As a result, many women find themselves in a cycle of unfairly low pay throughout their working lives. Being paid less can weaken a woman’s ability to provide for herself or her family, purchase a home, or save for retirement. 

In New York, on average, women are paid 88 cents for each dollar paid to men. The pay gap is even worse for women of color: In New York, Black women are paid only 63 cents and Latina women receive only 56 cents for each dollar paid to white men. This reality must change.

I am committed to fighting for pay equity in the workplace. New York’s laws aim to remove the barriers to equal pay and hold employers accountable when they break the law. My office provides this guidance to help you understand your rights and be paid fairly for your hard work.

New York State Attorney General Signature
Headshot of Attorney General Letitia James
workers wearing orange protective hats

Know your rights

You have the right to equal pay for “substantially similar” work

State law protects your right to receive equal pay for work that is “substantially similar” to work done by someone else at your workplace. This similarity depends on the skill, effort, and responsibility the work requires, and the conditions under which it is performed. 


If you are doing substantially similar work, you cannot be paid less due to any of the following reasons, which are called “protected classes”: 

  • age or disability status
  • race, creed, color, or national origin 
  • sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression 
  • military status 
  • genetic history
  • family or marital status 
  • status as a victim of domestic violence


However, you can be paid less based on:

  • job seniority or merit
  • quantity or quality of work production
  • factors like education, training, or experience

You have the right to discuss your pay with your coworkers

Under state law, your employer cannot prevent you from asking another employee about their pay, discussing your pay with another employee, or telling another employee how much you are paid. The law protects this right to help you identify illegal pay differences in your workplace. 


Your employer is allowed to reasonably limit when, where, and how you have these discussions, however. 

You do not have to tell anyone how much you were paid in previous roles

Under state law, an employer or prospective employer cannot ask you, or your current or former employer, to provide your pay history. They cannot ask you this as a condition for your being interviewed, offered a job, or promoted. Even if you were not paid fairly in the past, that unfair wage is not allowed to limit your pay in a new position.

An employer cannot discriminate against you on purpose

Under state law, an employer cannot intentionally pay you less because of sex, race, religion, national origin, age, disability, or other protected characteristics.

If your employer does discriminate against you in this way, you could have two claims against them: an equal-pay claim under New York laws, and a discrimination claim under federal, state, or local anti-discrimination law.

If you believe you have been discriminated against and would like to file a complaint, please consult an attorney. Learn about your options and important deadlines by reading our guidance on employment discrimination.

You are protected against retaliation

It is illegal for your employer to punish you for complaining about unequal pay or discrimination, discussing pay with your coworkers, or not providing your pay history. 

You have the right to see pay information when applying for most jobs in New York

The following applies to any employer that has at least four employees. In any advertisements for jobs, promotions, or transfer opportunities, the employer must include a salary, hourly rate, or good-faith minimum and maximum salary range. This applies to any position that: 

  • is performed entirely or partly in New York state
  • reports to a supervisor or office in New York state


Some local jurisdictions have their own laws about pay transparency. These include Albany CountyIthacaNew York City, and Westchester County

Filing a complaint

If an employer breaks the law or if you experience one of the following situations:

  • You are paid less than someone else for doing the same work or similar work under similar conditions.
  • An employer has asked about your pay history.
  • An employer does not allow you to discuss pay at your workplace.
  • An employer has punished you for discussing your pay, complaining about your pay, or not providing your pay history.
  • You see a job listing in New York that does not include pay information.
  • You received an offer for a job in New York at a lower pay rate than was advertised.

Then you have a number of options:

Please note: Making a complaint to OAG does not satisfy deadlines from a court or another agency. 

Office of the New York State Attorney General, Civil Rights Bureau
28 Liberty Street 
New York NY 10005 

Taskforce for Workers’ Equality

New York State Department of Labor, Division of Labor Standards
Building 12, Room 266B, 
State Office Campus
Albany NY 12240 

New York City Human Rights Commission
40 Rector Street, 10th Floor 
New York NY 10006 

The information contained in this brochure is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide or be relied upon as legal advice in any particular situation.