On Thursday, New Hampshire’s Senate voted 23 to zero in favor of a bill aimed at closing the state’s gender wage gap.
In New Hampshire, as with the rest of the country generally, women make just 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. The Senate’s bill would update the definition of pay discrimination to narrow the reasonable excuses for pay differentials between men and women and increase penalties for cases where there is no valid reason. It adds a protection against retaliation from employers for anyone who discusses pay with coworkers or speaks up about discrimination. It gives victims of discrimination more time to do discovery on their cases and also allows them to take complaints to the Department of Labor, which can be a faster and cheaper arbiter. It also requires employers to post information about equal pay laws at the workplace and will put information on the Department of Labor’s website.
The bill will now head to the state’s Democratic-led House, which has already passed its own version of the. “There will be a small but vocal group of Republicans in the House that seek to undermine this progress, of course,” Zandra Rice Hawkins, executive director Granite State Progress, said in a statement to ThinkProgress. But she said, “The Senate’s unanimous adoption of the New Hampshire Paycheck Fairness Act all but guarantees that the Governor will be signing it into law this spring.” Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) issued a statement applauding the Senate’s vote and urging the House to do the same.
Other states have enacted equal pay bills recently in an effort to close their gender wage gaps. Vermont enacted a law last May that did many of the things in New Hampshire’s and also requires state government contracts to pay equal wages. Louisiana now has a law that bans state agencies from paying different wages to employees of different genders with the same job. New York’s Assembly passed a package of reforms that included equal pay provisions, but it is currently stalled in the Senate, although another law with a similar aim was just introduced. Pennsylvania is also considering an equal pay law.
New Hampshire’s bill borrows many provisions from the federal Paycheck Fairness Act, which has been introduced multiple times. That law would ban salary secrecy and would narrow the definitions of excusable pay differentials while increasing penalties for violating them. But Republicans have twice voted against it.