At the start of their new legislative sessions, state lawmakers in Pennsylvania and New Hampshire have introduced bills that are designed to give women stronger protections against being paid less than men for equal work.
Pennsylvania’s HB 1890, introduced on January 2, and New Hampshire’s HB 1188 and SB 207, introduced on Wednesday, clarify when employers are allowed to pay differing wages, and ensure that employees are allowed to reveal how much they earn without being retaliated against. The latter provision is intended to guard against women having the same problems as Lilly Ledbetter, who did not learn she made less than her male coworkers for over a decade because her employer prohibited employees from discussing their wages.
The new bills all contain some similar language to the Paycheck Fairness Act, which was designed to improve on the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and has twice failed to pass the U.S. Congress. Although the Equal Pay Act was passed over 50 years ago, a pay gap persists for women, leading many lawmakers and advocates to work to strengthen it.
Under the Equal Pay Act, employers cannot pay employees of one gender less than employees of another gender unless there is a difference in seniority, merit, quality or quantity of production, or “any other factor other than sex.” The new bills change the “any other factor” language to a “bona fide factor other than sex, such as education, training, or experience.” The Pennsylvania and New Hampshire bills both specify that these factors must be necessary for business.
Pennsylvania’s equal pay bill is part of a broad package of other proactive bills to improve women’s health, safety, and financial security. Pro-choice New York legislators have a similarly broad strategy, including an equal pay provision in their ten-point Women’s Equality Act, which is expected to be re-introduced this session after failing to pass last year.