The Miscellany News is excited to bring you the first episode of Soundbox, a podcast and community platform dedicated to social and criminal justice issues in Poughkeepsie, the Hudson Valley and New York State at large.
For Soundbox’s inaugural episode, I sat down over Zoom with Poughkeepsie resident Brian Robinson. He wrote Senate Bill 8223, dubbed the Equitable NY Act.
Robinson has long juggled a career while volunteering his time for social justice causes. While volunteering for a major Poughkeepsie non-profit (which he prefers not to name), he witnessed sweeping wage inequality and other workplace discrimination. Shortly after he raised alarm bells about what he saw, he says the Attorney General’s office doled out thousands of dollars in funding to the organization.
Out of the civil rights movement came landmark legislation that outlawed blatant discrimination in the United States. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, considered the crowning policy achievement of the movement, made job discrimination and segregation in schools and other public spaces illegal.
But in 2020, job discrimination still persists in a society that outlawed it over half a century ago.
Discrimination in the workplace—treating people differently based on their race, gender, religion or other fundamental identities—isn’t often expressed through slurs or physical threats in America. According to the Center for Public Integrity, it transpires in more subtle ways, such as in pay or benefits, workers’ assignments, and the way performance is evaluated and rewarded. Sometimes discrimination happens before a job applicant even gets the job. A 2003 study by Harvard sociologist Devah Pager, found that employers were more likely to consider white candidates with criminal records over black candidates with no record.
The Equitable NY Act would regulate employer transparency and strengthen the discrimination watchdog powers of the NYS Division of Human Rights. The bill would require certain employers to annually report workforce demographics, such as race, ethnicity, age, and gender, and equity measurements, such as pay, raises, job category, and terminations. If passed, the agency would also be tasked with blocking taxpayer money from employers with discriminatory histories.