Ayotte, Hassan spar over credit for equal pay legislation  

  • Sen. Kelly Ayotte speaks on the gender pay gap at a roundtable discussion in Concord on Monday. ALLIE MORRIS / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 4/11/2016 11:24:27 PM

U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte has never faced wage discrimination herself, but the Republican says addressing the gender pay gap is a priority.

“This is an important issue that unfortunately some women in our country face,” Ayotte said Monday, following a roundtable discussion in Concord on equal pay. “That’s why we need to make sure that we have strong laws in place to address discrimination in the workforce.”

On average, women earn less than men. And in 2014, full-time female workers made 79 cents for every dollar men earned, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

Ayotte on Monday refiled legislation known as the Gender Advancement in Pay Act, which would bar employers from retaliating against workers who discuss their wages or choose not to disclose their salary history.

The legislation, known as the GAP Act, seeks to narrow factors that companies can use to justify pay disparities and also creates new civil penalties for employers that commit “willful wage discrimination.” Revenue from the fines would fund studies on the wage gap.

Ayotte is running for reelection this year, and her legislation came under fire from Democrats.

The New Hampshire Democratic Party was quick to label the bill a “sham,” saying it is “intended to distract from her record of voting against meaningful legislation to end wage discrimination.”

Senate Republicans have several times blocked the Paycheck Fairness Act, a Democratic proposal to address the gender wage gap that goes further than Ayotte’s proposal. Ayotte has voted in the past not to advance that bill.

She pushed back against Democratic criticism, saying the GAP Act is based on a New Hampshire paycheck fairness proposal that Gov. Maggie Hassan signed into law in 2014. Hassan, a Democrat, is now running for Ayotte’s seat.

“Their criticism really rings hollow,” Ayotte told reporters Monday, adding the issue is being turned into a “political football.”

Hassan and Democratic U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen said they support the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Hassan said Ayotte’s legislation would create loopholes that in certain cases let employers prevent workers from sharing salary information, a tool that helps women find out when they are being paid less than male counterparts.

“It is extremely troubling that Kelly Ayotte has voted four times against the federal Paycheck Fairness Act,” Hassan said in a statement. “Granite Staters deserve a Senator who will always put the well-being of our women, children and families first.”

(Allie Morris can be reached at 369-3307 or at amorris@cmonitor.com.)

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