Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris unveiled a plan recently to close the gender pay gap, earning plaudits from former state senator and gubernatorial candidate Molly Kelly.

The U.S. senator from California’s pitch would require corporations to prove they are not engaging in pay discrimination, facing fines if they do not close gender pay gaps in-house if they employ at least 100 people.

According to the National Partnership for Women & Families, a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit organization, women working full time earn 80 cents, overall, to every dollar earned by men. A May 2019 analysis from the group found that for Latinas it’s 53 cents, 58 cents for Native American women and 61 cents for black women.

According to the Harris campaign’s calculation, the median annual pay for a woman working full time in New Hampshire would increase by up to $5,074 per year under the enforcement mechanisms put forth in her equal pay initiative.

In a white paper released by the campaign detailing the policy proposal, the reporting process is deemed necessary because of the difficulty in proving gender discrimination in lawsuits, for which corporations can be better equipped financially than the average employee.

The Harris plan focuses on pay disparities between men and women “who are doing work of equal value.”

If there is a difference in pay between employees of similar positions, the companies would be required to show that the gap is “based on merit, performance, or seniority — not gender,” according to the white paper released by the campaign.

An “Equal Pay Certification” process would be put in place, under which companies would be required to disclose their pay policies and would be prohibited from asking prior salary history as part of their hiring process.

The policy would also ban forced arbitration as a mechanism for settling pay disputes outside of the judicial system.

Companies would also be required to report statistics on the percentage of women in leadership positions and the percentage of women among the company’s top earners.

Another report required under the plan would be for companies to calculate the overall pay gap between men and women regardless of job titles, and to categorize those statistics under the race and ethnicity of employees.

If companies do not comply, they would be fined 1 percent of their profits for every 1 percent in the wage gap they are found by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to have.

Those fines, according to the campaign, would generate roughly $180 billion over 10 years, with revenue decreasing over time “as strong equal pay practices become part of corporate culture,” according to a news release.

By size, companies with 100 or more employees would have to obtain the certification within three years of the program’s start date, and those with 500 or more would have two years to submit statistics.

Firms would also have to disclose whether they are “Equal Pay Certified” on the homepage of their websites, and a list of compliance reports would be posted on the EEOC’s website.

The revenue from the fines would be put toward funding paid family and medical leave.

The campaign also outlined in the white paper that a potential Harris administration would expand investigations into firms under Title VII of the Civil Rights act and the Equal Pay Act from 1963.

The campaign added that “Harris won’t wait for Congress to act, she’ll take executive action herself.”

Kelly, who has not endorsed a presidential candidate in the primary, issued a statement through the campaign voicing her support for the plan.

“The gender pay gap is a serious economic problem for many New Hampshire women,” Kelly, of Harrisville, said. “To combat it, Kamala’s visionary new plan will ensure both accountability and transparency from businesses. This proposal is a huge step in the right direction for all women. It’s about time.”

Jake Lahut can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1435, or jlahut@keenesentinel.com. You can follow him on Twitter @JakeLahut.