ThinkProgress asked Ovide Lamontagne at a campaign stop on Friday about whether a law that said men and women should be given equal pay for equal work would be a proper exercise of government. New Hampshire is currently the worst state in New England and one of the worst in the nation when it comes to the wage gap, with the average woman earning just 65 cents for every dollar earned by a man.
“I don’t know that it’s appropriate for the government to continue to micromanage the workplace,” Lamontagne declared. He went on to say that women should be able to sue if they feel they’re being discriminated against, but professed ignorance on whether New Hampshire law already provides for such a remedy:
KEYES: It seems like one of the overarching themes has been the role of government, especially here in New Hampshire. What about something like a pay equity law, that men and women should be paid equal pay for equal work. Is that something that you think would be appropriate for the role of state government here in New Hampshire?
LAMONTAGNE: I certainly think women should be paid the same as men. Young workers should be paid the same as older workers if they achieve the criteria for salary. But I don’t know that it’s appropriate for the government to continue to micromanage the workplace. But if there’s a legitimate disparity I think there’s remedies that are available, for discrimination in the workplace, and if there aren’t we should have that legal remedy available. If people feel, man or woman, that they’re being discriminated against on a salary compensation, they should be able to assert that claim if that is in fact the case.
KEYES: But the difference between a law and legal recourse? I guess I’m slightly confused about the difference there.
LAMONTAGNE: The law may actually be giving legal recourse. I’m not familiar enough with employment laws right now in New Hampshire to know whether or not there is in fact right now available remedy.
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New Hampshire is currently one of 17 states that requires employers to offer equal pay for “equal work,” but the law is so riddled with loopholes that it’s been rendered effectively meaningless, as evidenced by the state’s massive wage gap. In addition, current law places the burden on workers to prove discrimination, which can be quite difficult to realize in the first place, either because of social taboos or actual laws preventing co-workers from discussing their salaries.