Women working full-time year-round in New Hampshire still typically earn only about 77 cents for every dollar earned by men – and women of color fare worse. Looks like New Hampshire might do something about it. Today the New Hampshire House is holding a hearing on a bill that would ban retaliation against workers who talk about their wages. (The Senate bill gets a hearing on Thursday). If this bill passes, the Granite state would join states like Vermont, New Jersey, and New Mexico that have recently improved their equal pay laws along with states like Illinois, Colorado, California and Michigan that have long banned penalties for against workers who are trying to gather enough information to challenge their unfair pay.
Pay secrecy policies can keep women in the dark about their pay, making pay discrimination nearly impossible to detect. Ask Lilly Ledbetter – she worked at a Goodyear plant making less than all of the other male managers for almost 20 years without knowing she was paid less. Goodyear’s gag rule supported the discrimination.
Some New Hampshire policymakers know the state can do better. And so can other states. (New York, you were so close last year – let’s get this done!) And for that matter, so can federal policymakers, who have an opportunity to finally move forward with the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would improve protections for workers seeking equal pay in all 50 states. And there are concrete steps that the President can take too, using his executive authority to ban retaliation by those who are doing business with the federal government. Or finally moving forward with a tool that would allow the Department of Labor to collect information about federal contractor pay practices.
It’s been 50 years since the Equal Pay Act guaranteed equal wages for equal work. Policymakers at every level have a stake in fulfilling this promise. New Hampshire, let’s get this done!