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April 23. 2014 8:51PM

Paycheck equity bill gets preliminary OK by House

CONCORD — The House Wednesday voted 187-134 to preliminarily approve the “Paycheck Equity Act” to prevent wage discrimination based on a person’s gender.

The House and Senate have similar bills, and Wednesday the House voted on the Senate’s bill that senators passed unanimously last month.

Supporters argued wage discrimination does exist in the state affecting both women’s earning power and retirement income.

Supporters said pay inequity between men and women in New Hampshire averages $11,000 on an annual basis.

Much like civil rights laws, equal pay statutes need to be revisited from time to time, said Rep. Linda Tanner, D-Sunapee.

“Receiving the same pay for the same work,” Tanner said, “is an issue of fundamental fairness. It is the right thing to do.”

But opponents said there is no widespread wage discrimination against women among state employers and noted the state Department of Labor has received only three pay inequity complaints in the past 20 years.

Rep. Will Infantine, R-Manchester, said it is reprehensible for anyone to pay someone less than someone else for doing the same job, but doubted there is much of a problem in New Hampshire.

Men often make more because the some jobs they do are riskier, more dangerous and often require more flexible work hours during nights and weekends than other positions, he said.

And Infantine noted when men and women own their own businesses, women make half of what men do. “Men are more motivated by money than women are,” Infantine said.

The statement brought some House members out of their seats to challenge his contention.

The bill allows for the possibility of differences in pay based on the specific duties of a job as well as workers’ experience and education.

The bill includes a “non-retaliation provision” that prohibits employer retaliation against workers who inquire about their wages or discuss wages with co-workers.

The bill extends the statute of limitations for bringing an action against an employer from one to three years and extends the period workers can recover back pay for discrimination from three to four years.

Gov. Maggie Hassan supports the legislation.

“Eliminating the pay gap between women and men will strengthen the financial security of working families and help them make ends meet while boosting our state’s economy,” Hassan said. “I look forward to signing the New Hampshire Paycheck Fairness Act into law and reaffirming the basic principle that an equal day’s work deserves an equal day’s pay.”

The bill now goes to the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee to review the criminal penalties before the House takes a final vote on the bill.

grayno@unionleader.com


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