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Lamontagne comments on equal pay for women draw criticism from Hassan, Shaheen

Senior Political Reporter

October 23. 2012 7:47PM

MANCHESTER -- Republican candidate for governor Ovide Lamontagne's comments about the need for a state pay equity law drew criticism from his current and former Democratic opponents Tuesday.

Lamontagne's campaign spokesman said Democrat Maggie Hassan was taking five seconds of a 105 second audio clip 'out of context to try and concoct a story.'

Lamontagne was asked by a representative of the liberal web site last Friday if he believed a pay equity law would be an appropriate role for state government.

He replied that he believes men and women should be paid the same, 'But I don't know that it's appropriate for the government to continue to micromanage the workplace.'

But Lamontagne then said that if there is a 'legitimate disparity,' he believed 'that there's remedies that are available for discrimination in the workplace. And if there aren't, we should have that legal remedy available.'

He admitted he was 'not familiar enough with employment laws right now in New Hampshire to know whether or not there is in fact right now available remedy.

'There must be a remedy for that, but if there isn't, there will be, because I'll support that,' Lamontagne told the web site, which is run by the Center for American Progress Action Fund advocacy group.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, who defeated Lamontagne in her -- and his -- first run for governor in 1996, joined Hassan in criticizing Lamontagne.

Hassan called it 'disturbing' that Lamontagne did not know that New Hampshire has had an equal pay law on the books since 2001. Shaheen signed the bill into law in as governor in 2000.

'But what is even more disturbing is his lack of understanding of, and empathy for, the challenges facing women in the workplace,' Hassan said. 'It's another example of how Ovide's radical agenda is out of touch with the needs of New Hampshire's middle class families.

'The pay gap is a real issue, as is the lack of affordable health care for women,' she said. 'But Ovide keeps trying to dismiss these issues as unimportant.

'Combating discrimination and making sure everyone gets equal pay for equal work is not micro-managing, as Ovide says it is. It is basic fairness,' Hassan said.

She said women in the state earn about 80 percent of what men earn, which is 'smaller than it used to be,' thanks to the 2001 law.

Shaheen said the state's law 'has been working well in the state. It's not been an impediment to business. I don't remember a lot of opposition from the business community about the law.

'Pay discrimination doesn't just hurt employees,' Shaheen said. 'It endangers the families who depend on the women who are working.

'This is not about micromanaging business,' Shaheen said, 'It's about what's fair for families in New Hampshire and across this country. '

The Lamontagne campaign responded with a written statement by spokesman Tom Cronin.

'As Ovide said in the clip, he certainly thinks women should be paid the same as men and there should be legal remedies available to ensure that is the case, and as governor he would support enacting laws necessary to do just that. Sen. Hassan's campaign is taking five seconds of a 105 second clip out of context to try and concoct a story. As the momentum in this campaign continues to swing behind Ovide, the Hassan campaign's desperation is pathetic.'

Cronin then clarified iin an interview that Lamontagne knew 'there are anti-discrimination laws and significant case law on anti-discrimination.

'There is clearly a role for government to prevent discrimination,' said Cronin, 'and that includes being paid equally for an equal day's work.'

Cronin said Lamontagne considers "micromanaging" to mean, 'Is it the government's role to come in and say, 'You will be paid X dollar amount in relation to another employee making X dollar amount?

'That's what he means by micro-managing,' said Cronin. 'But if there is an employee who feels for any reason that he or she is being discriminated against, for any one of the reasons outlined in law, that employee should and under current law does have legal recourse to go to court and make a case.

'He supports the laws that are on the books,' Cronin said.

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