Cloudy
47°
Cloudy
Hi 63° | Lo 42°

Editorial: Legislation promotes workplace fairness

There’s a famous old episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show in which Mary Richards, the associate producer of a local TV news show, stumbles upon documentation that she’s being paid $50 less per week than the person who held her job before her. She marches boldly into the boss’s office and makes a stink. Mr. Grant tells her, candidly, that the difference is all about gender. Her predecessor was a man – and he had a family to support. Mary explains that such distinctions are immaterial. Mr. Grant, still clinging to his chauvinism, offers her an additional $20 per week. Mary’s not satisfied, but by the time the episode draws to a close, the boss relents, Mary gets her $50 raise and viewers have been klonked over the head with a lesson about pay equity.

Mary Richards never went to court, never called the Human Rights Commission or Department of Labor. She didn’t hire a lawyer, didn’t join a union. She certainly didn’t get harassed or fired for her protest. She never even hesitated to stand up for herself.

In real life, it wasn’t nearly so easy for women in the workplace in the 1970s. That remains true for some here in the 21st century, too. That’s why Concord Sen. Sylvia Larsen’s modest-sounding legislation makes good sense – and why the resistance voiced at a public hearing last week is wrong-headed.

Larsen has sponsored the New Hampshire Paycheck Fairness Act. It would require employers, upon a complaint, to prove that wage differentials between men and women holding the same position and doing the same work stem from factors other than gender. It would prohibit retaliation against workers who ask about their employers’ wage practices or who disclose their own wages to coworkers. It would strengthen penalties for equal-pay violations and require employers to display notices informing employees of their rights.

The simple logic behind the legislation is this: Women in New Hampshire and across the country continue to be paid less than men for the same work. Sometimes they don’t even know it because workplace rules or culture make it impossible for them to find out. Without knowledge, they’re powerless to help themselves.

Earlier this month, the Monitor published a compelling column by Lilly Ledbetter in these pages. Ledbetter’s Supreme Court case, in which the justices found that she had waited too long to complain about unequal pay to deserve compensation – even though she didn’t know about the inequity while it was happening – inspired federal legislation in her name to reverse the ruling. But as her column pointed out, the Ledbetter law was only a start. In arguing for a federal version of Larsen’s Paycheck Fairness Act, Ledbetter noted, “This action would help dismantle what was my largest barrier all those years ago – not knowing that I was being paid unfairly and having no way to find out. Few women have that information, and some don’t feel safe asking questions for fear of retaliation from their bosses. I was told I’d be fired if I shared salary information at work.”

Last week, state Sen. Andy Sanborn expressed skepticism about Larsen’s bill. “Do you know of any companies that are breaking the law today?” he asked. And Sen. Sam Cataldo said he’d seen no evidence of it himself.

But that’s just the point. Today, it’s sometimes difficult for employees – women and men alike – to learn about the wage structure where they work. If they’re being treated unfairly, they might even know it. And without evidence to prove it, they’re unlikely to complain to their senators or the courts.

It’s hard to imagine a state legislator who wouldn’t support the basic value of equal pay for equal work. They should prove it not just with words but with their votes.

Legacy Comments3

@ sail... "So for example, if you add up all the incomes of women and divide by the number of women in the labor force and then do the same thing for men, what you’ll find is, on average, women do make about 75% of what men do." "What’s happening here is not discrimination in the labor market, but differences in the choices that men and women make (about investing in their knowledge, their education, their skills, and their job experiences) that lead to them getting paid different salaries." Women with same education, same time on job , working same position show no statistical significant difference in wages." That is, of course, because said woman belongs to a good union. . . THAT is why she does make the same wage as her male counterpart. She has been trained with both on job experience AND classroom education. There has been an apprenticeship period of training where that same woman has worked beside a highly skilled journeyman and learned the ins and outs of her profession. After that the same woman has passed any and all exams that elevated her to professional status and equal pay. It isn't easy but if a woman (or man) really wants to learn the work and get the pay she deserves it can be done.

Another very valid point. I wonder if Larsen, so worried about "workplace fairness" would legislate that companies could not discriminate against people based on affirmative action. If government dictates that women and minorities should be given preference, how does that enhance "workplace fairness". If a man or white person is more qualified, should they not get the position.

Phoney baloney WEDGE politics from the democrats: PROOF -"Another contemporary economic myth is that women make 75 cents for every dollar men make because they’re discriminated against in labor markets. Like other myths, this does have a kernel of truth to it. So for example, if you add up all the incomes of women and divide by the number of women in the labor force and then do the same thing for men, what you’ll find is, on average, women do make about 75% of what men do." "What’s happening here is not discrimination in the labor market, but differences in the choices that men and women make (about investing in their knowledge, their education, their skills, and their job experiences) that lead to them getting paid different salaries." Women with same education, same time on job , working same position show no statistical significant difference in wages. "Economist June O'Neill, former director of the Congressional Budget Office, found after controlling for experience, education, and number of years on the job....that among young people who have never had a child, women's earnings approach 98 percent of men's. The democrats REAL WAR on Women is here... "Analysis: Men still make a lot more than women in Obama’s White House" "357,000 Fewer Women Held Jobs in October; Female Participation Rate Hits New Low" . That is the REAL democrats record....Post 1 of 12 on 1/27

Post a Comment

You must be registered to comment on stories. Click here to register.