By: Emily Werth, FellowPosted on April 25, 2014 Issues: Equal Pay & the Wage Gap Workplace Justice

In states across the country, this has been a banner year for agreement across the aisle about the importance of safeguarding women’s rights at work. First Governor Chris Christie signed a law – adopted with just a single dissenting vote in the state legislature – ensuring that pregnant workers in New Jersey with medical restrictions will have access to basic workplace accommodations that they need to continue performing their jobs and earning income for their growing families. Then similar protections for pregnant workers became law in West Virginia with unanimous support.

And now both New Hampshire and Minnesota are poised to improve protections for women in the workplace after the legislatures in both states took bipartisan actions earlier this week!

This past Wednesday the New Hampshire House of Representatives voted in favor of a bill that would strengthen equal pay protections by:

  • Tackling punitive pay secrecy policies that prevent workers from learning if they are experiencing pay discrimination
  • Safeguarding workers against retaliation when they pursue their rights
  • Increasing penalties for equal pay violations
  • Expanding the amount of time that a person has to bring a case
  • Improving the information publicly available about equal pay laws

This bill had already passed the New Hampshire Senate on a unanimous vote. The bill now just has to clear one more legislative committee and another full House vote before it will go to Governor Maggie Hassan – who has already stated her support – to be signed into law.

On the same day, the Minnesota Senate voted to adopt the Women’s Economic Security Act, which is a comprehensive package of reforms to promote workplace opportunity and equality for women and the wellbeing of their entire families. Among the various components of the bill are:

  • Guaranteeing that pregnant workers can get accommodations when they have a medical need for them so they are not pushed out of their jobs
  • Prohibiting punitive pay secrecy policies
  • Ensuring that state contractors comply with equal pay standards
  • Promoting women’s access to high-wage jobs and business opportunities
  • Preventing discrimination against workers who have caregiving obligations

A version of this bill already passed the Minnesota House of Representatives on a bipartisan vote. Now all that remains is for the two houses of the state legislature to resolve some differences between the versions of the bill, and then for Governor Mark Dayton to sign it into law.

This series of bipartisan (and even unanimous) votes reveals the breadth of support for common-sense measures to combat discrimination in the workplace. It is high time for Congress to get on board, and pass critical bills like the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act.

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