Senator Jason Lewis to Host Community Conversation with State Education Commissioner

Continuing his “Community Conversations” issue discussions, Senator Jason Lewis is excited to announce an upcoming conversation he will hold with Massachusetts’ Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education, Dr. Mitchell Chester.  Held in every community of the district, “Community Conversations” are issue discussions delving into a different topic at each forum, with ample opportunity for residents to share feedback and have their questions answered by experts on the given topic.

This upcoming event – Community Conversations: The Future of Public Education in the Commonwealth – will take place on Wednesday, October 5, at 6:30pm.  The event will occur in the GAR Room at Memorial Hall, 590 Main Street, Melrose, and is free and open to the public.

This forum will offer the chance to hear directly from one of our Commonwealth’s chief policy setters regarding the education of our youth as Senator Lewis and Commissioner Chester engage in conversation covering a wide variety of issues related to public education in Massachusetts, ranging from standardized testing and MCAS 2.0, to how best to serve special education and ELL students, to charter schools, to ensuring adequate and equitable funding, to social and emotional health in our schools, and much more.  There will be ample opportunity for Q&A from attendees.  The forum is sponsored by Senator Lewis in coordination with Melrose Mayor Robert J. Dolan, Melrose Superintendent Cyndy Taymore, the Melrose School Committee, and the Melrose Education Foundation.

“With our children having just returned to school, our attention is focused on the public education our communities and our Commonwealth offer,” noted Senator Lewis.  “I hope that this conversation offers residents more in-depth perspective on the array of educational issues facing our state and local communities and provides an opportunity to give real-time feedback.  The conversations I have directly with constituents across the district are the best source of information and guidance to help me do my job in the legislature.”

“Community Conversations” forums have been held in all six communities of the 5th Middlesex district on topics including: public transportation; small business and entrepreneurship; challenges facing senior citizens and caregivers; energy policy and environmental priorities; and, efforts to combat substance abuse and opioid addiction in our region.

Column: An Economy that Works for Everyone

With Labor Day having recently passed, this is a good time to reflect on the state of our economy and ask important questions about whether it is truly working for all of our families.

I’m pleased that here in Massachusetts we have taken a number of meaningful steps in recent years to improve the economic quality of life for poor and working families. In 2014, the state legislature passed legislation to gradually increase the minimum wage to $11 per hour by January 1, 2017. This increase is expected to raise the wages and standard of living for more than 600,000 workers. In the November, 2014 election, Massachusetts voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot referendum to create a statewide earned paid sick time policy, a benefit that was previously unavailable to many lower-wage workers. Then, in 2015, the legislature and Governor Baker significantly increased the state Earned Income Tax Credit – widely viewed as one of the most effective anti-poverty programs – for the first time in decades.

These are important and impactful victories for Massachusetts workers and their families, but we need to do more. As the state and national economy has grown over the last three-and-a-half decades, very few have benefited from this growth. As the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center pointed out in Labor Day 2015: Important Gains, Many Challenges for MA Workers, “Since the late 1970s, wages and incomes for most working families have stagnated. By contrast, for the highest income households, incomes have grown at ten times the rate of income growth for the bottom 90% of the population.”

This is not because people are working fewer hours or are less productive. In fact, most people are working longer hours and sometimes multiple jobs. Worker productivity has climbed an astonishing 65% since 1979. But most workers have not been getting their fair share of these gains.

On the other hand, when it comes to CEO salaries and compensation for top corporate executives we see a very different picture. According to the Economic Policy Institute, in 1965, the average CEO-to-worker compensation ratio was 20-to-1; in other words, a CEO was paid on average about twenty times what the average employee in their company made. That ratio grew to approximately 30-to-1 by 1978. Today, these figures seem positively quaint. According to an AFL-CIO study conducted in 2013, the average CEO is now paid 272 times more than the average worker in Massachusetts corporations that are included in the S&P 500 index. And there are some particularly egregious examples, such as Framingham-based TJX Companies CEO Carol Meyrowitz whose total compensation of $28.69 million in 2015 was 1,159 times more than the median TJX worker pay of $25,000.

Are top corporate executives today so much more skilled than their peers in years past that they deserve such excessive compensation?

A new U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rule that will require larger public companies to disclose the ratio of their CEO’s compensation to the median pay of their workers is a good first step in beginning to address this inequity in our economy.

To encourage greater balance and fairness between the compensation paid to top executives and the wages paid to workers, I have filed legislation, Senate Bill 1509, An Act relative to excessive executive compensation. This bill would require certain corporations and financial institutions to pay a higher corporate excise tax (an additional 2% of corporate income) if the CEO or highest paid employee earns more than 100 times what the median worker earns.

From World War II through the late 1970s, prosperity was broadly shared. This raised living standards for the vast majority of Americans and led to more robust economic growth overall. I believe our current economic trajectory is unsustainable. We must aggressively pursue policies that address income and wealth inequality in our Commonwealth and our nation.

Bill to Regulate Transportation Network Companies Signed Into Law

The Massachusetts Legislature passed, and Governor Charles Baker recently signed into law, a bill to regulate Transportation Network Companies (TNC’s), including Uber and Lyft. The new law creates a strong regulatory framework for operatives and drivers to be administered by the Department of Public Utilities (DPU).  It also subjects drivers to strict background checks, sets rules for insurance requirements, and requires drivers to be certified.

During 2016, as the legislation was being developed, legislators met with a range of stakeholders on this issue including TNC’s, taxi drivers, taxi medallion owners, the livery industry, the Division of Insurance, municipal leaders, insurance companies, and the Department of Criminal Justice Information Systems.

“The new law protects opportunities for entrepreneurship and innovation while ensuring appropriate oversight of and safety regarding a burgeoning industry,” said Senator Jason Lewis.  “The bill has found the right balance between promoting new technology and implementing commonsense regulation, and I was pleased to support it.  It will allow entrepreneurs to prosper while protecting consumers, ensuring public safety, and preserving the ease and convenience of the public’s access to these ride-sharing services.”

Under the law, the state division established within DPU and the TNC’s must both verify that each driver has successfully completed a background check.  A driver must be at least 21 years old, and his or her name must not appear on the National Sex Offender Registry.  The driver must not have been convicted of certain crimes in the past seven years and no more than 5 traffic violations or any major traffic violation in the past 3 years.  The DPU will be required to issue TNC-specific decals that drivers will be required to place on their vehicles for identification purposes.  The law also includes steep penalties of up to $1,000 for willfully permitting an uncertified driver to use a certificate that does not belong to them.

The law increases consumer protection and ensures that the industry is transparent and accountable. Under the law, a TNC must provide accurate fare estimates, prohibit fare increases during emergencies and require accommodation of riders with special needs.  It also requires a TNC to set up a toll-free customer service hotline on their app and website to better meet the needs and concerns of consumers.

The law establishes a trust fund that will provide cities and towns with funds at least annually based on the proportion of rides originating in those cities and towns.  These funds may be used for anything related to unmet transportation needs.  It is funded by a marginal 10-cent charge on each TNC ride in the Commonwealth.

Legislation to Modernize Municipal Finance and Government Signed Into Law

The Massachusetts Legislature passed, and Governor Charles Baker recently signed into law, comprehensive legislation to modernize municipal finance and governance laws in Massachusetts, including provisions to eliminate or update obsolete laws, promote local independence, streamline state oversight, and provide greater flexibility for cities and towns.

“This legislation offers our cities and towns additional tools to improve their fiscal stability and streamline operations,” said Senator Jason Lewis.  “With municipalities routinely operating under tight financial pressures, this law will provide local governments with greater flexibility and independence.”

The new law eliminates or updates obsolete laws that no longer serve a meaningful purpose, including the repeal of county government finance reporting requirements and changes to the civil motor vehicle infraction law to allow cities and towns to issue citations electronically.

The law promotes local autonomy for cities and towns, allowing for more control over certain funding decisions and local regulations. For example, it allows municipalities to enter into joint powers agreements to provide services regionally and reduces the state’s role in setting liquor license quotas for on-premises drinking.  It also streamlines state oversight of many tax collection procedures to make the process more transparent and predictable for local officials.

Through a successful amendment to the legislation proposed in the Senate by Senator Lewis and in the House of Representatives by State Representative Michael Day of Stoneham, the bill provides an opportunity for school districts to better manage the unpredictable nature of special education costs.  Specifically, this bill would give municipalities the option of establishing a stabilization fund that could be used to help pay for unexpected and unbudgeted out-of-district special education costs, including tuition and transportation.  These expenses can present significant challenges for school budgets.

Finally, the law takes steps to provide municipalities with greater flexibility, including a study on double utility poles, changes to procurement laws to simplify, clarify and increase thresholds for construction contracts and updates to the way municipalities use parking revenues, to allow for use on a wide range of transportation-related issues.

Column: Why Non-Compete Agreements are Unfair to Workers and Bad for our Economy

Most people are probably not familiar with non-compete agreements, at least until they are hired for a job by an employer who requires one as a condition of employment. Non-compete agreements restrict where somebody can work, for a certain period of time, after leaving their current employer. Supporters of these agreements argue that they are necessary to protect a business from an employee leaving to work for a competitor or to start her own business that may be competitive with her former employer.

However, I believe that non-compete agreements are inherently unfair to workers and their families, and they also harm our state’s economy by sapping innovation and restricting labor mobility. Originally limited mainly to the high tech industry, their usage in other industries, including the lower-wage service sector, has unfortunately become more widespread in recent years. It is time to get rid of non-compete agreements or at least significantly scale them back in Massachusetts.

About half of our state’s technology sector workforce is bound by non-compete clauses, with one-third of those arrangements restricting employment for more than a year. There are also egregious examples of workers in hair salons and sandwich shops who are restricted from leaving and working for another business in that industry for a substantial period of time. The result is that workers and their families may have to struggle without income during the restricted period, or find it difficult to land a job in another industry. Skills and technical knowledge can also atrophy during this period when an individual is kept out of the workforce. This is simply unfair.

There is also substantial research indicating that non-compete agreements stifle innovation. The U.S. Department of the Treasury recently published a report detailing the negative effects that non-compete agreements have on employment and innovation, as well as the positive effects that employee mobility has on labor productivity by achieving a better matching of workers and firms.

States that more stringently restrict non-compete agreements see positive effects on the number of patents issued, the number of start-ups, and jobs created. Furthermore, the benefits of venture capital on local innovation are increased when non-compete agreements are scaled back. New companies considering locating in Massachusetts or expanding into the Commonwealth may face difficulties hiring because of non-compete agreements that lock up potential employees.

California bans the use of non-compete agreements in almost all situations. Many experts believe this has been one of the contributing factors to the incredible success of Silicon Valley. Of the billion-dollar tech companies founded in the last decade, 32 out of 36 of them are based in California. None are located in Massachusetts. While the Commonwealth certainly does enjoy a thriving innovation economy, we could be doing even better in terms of building new companies and creating more jobs.

At the beginning of this legislative session, I filed a bill to get rid of non-compete agreements in Massachusetts. Both the Senate and the House passed different versions of this legislation. There was agreement between the branches that non-compete agreements should not be allowed for low-wage workers, students, or workers who are laid off. However, there were differences in the length of the restricted period that would be allowed for other types of workers as well as the compensation that would have to be paid to the employee during this restricted period. Unfortunately, these differences proved too great to overcome in the final days of the legislature’s formal session in July, and so a bill never quite made it to Governor Baker’s desk.

The good news is that we have made significant progress in educating lawmakers and the public about the harms caused by non-compete agreements. I plan to re-file my bill next legislative session (which begins in January, 2017) and I’m very hopeful that we will be successful in eliminating or substantially scaling back non-compete agreements in Massachusetts.

I will continue to champion this issue going forward because I believe it’s both an issue of fairness as well as fostering innovation and economic growth in the Commonwealth.

Comprehensive Economic Development Legislation Passed Into Law

The Massachusetts Legislature recently passed, and Governor Charles Baker signed into law, comprehensive economic development legislation including investments, initiatives and incentives to promote development and workforce training, create jobs and stimulate the Commonwealth’s economy. The legislation strengthens existing programs and authorizes $743.9M in capital spending over a period of three years for a range of economic development initiatives supporting workers, businesses and communities.

“I’m pleased that the Senate, the House, and Governor Baker were able to work closely together to pass this comprehensive legislation that will promote economic development and job creation across the Commonwealth,” said Senator Jason Lewis. “Among many other important provisions, the legislation recapitalizes the MassWorks infrastructure grant program that has been very helpful to communities in our district with their downtown revitalization efforts.”

The bill authorizes capital investments in initiatives to promote innovation, create jobs and provide skills training and assistance for the Massachusetts workforce.  Included are: $71 million in matching grants to allow colleges and universities to participate in the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation initiative; $45.9M for building improvements for career technical education and training programs; $30M for workforce training and education in the advanced manufacturing, technology and hospitality fields; $15M for a new Innovation Infrastructure Program providing grants and loans for the design, construction and improvement of buildings to spur innovation and entrepreneurship, including co-working spaces, innovation centers, maker spaces, post-incubation start-ups and artist space; $15.775M for matching grants for innovative scientific and technology research and development activities stimulating economic and employment opportunities in the state; $4.775M for a cybersecurity and data analytics technology development and training center; and, $2.4M for the Early College High School Program to encourage partnerships between school districts and higher education institutions.

The bill also authorizes spending for infrastructure investments to boost economic growth, housing production and community development across the Commonwealth.  Included are: $500 million for the MassWorks Infrastructure Program, which provides funding to cities and towns to support commercial and residential development, housing, downtown revitalization, transportation improvements and other infrastructure necessary for economic development and job creation; $109.5M for the purchase of higher-capacity cranes to move cargo and extend docks to allow larger ships to dock and conduct business in the state; $15M for site assembly and assessment, pre-development permitting and other pre-development and marketing activities; $45M for the Brownfields Redevelopment Fund; $45M for transformative development projects in Gateway Cities; $7.5M for smart growth housing development for low income residents; $6.4M for the Massachusetts Food Trust Program to increase access to healthy food options and improve economic opportunities for nutritionally underserved communities; and, $1M for public infrastructure grants to municipalities.

The bill strengthens existing programs designed to create jobs and connect people to jobs, updating the operation of Regional Economic Development Organizations and streamlining the Economic Development Incentive Program to make the program more flexible and transparent.

In addition, the bill makes several changes to tax incentives and expenditures and establishes a tax expenditure review unit within the Office of the Inspector General to periodically review and report on the costs and benefits of the state’s tax expenditures.

Finally, the bill establishes a new tax incentive, limited to Massachusetts residents, encouraging families to save for higher education. Individual filers would be able to take a $1,000 tax deduction for contributions to a prepaid tuition or college savings program, also known as a 529 plan. Married couples filing taxes jointly would be able to take a $2,000 deduction.

Massachusetts Senate Passes Paid Family and Medical Leave Bill with Support from Senator Jason Lewis

The Massachusetts Senate recently passed legislation establishing a paid family and medical leave program for all Massachusetts workers. The bill creates a system for paid, job-protected leave for employees who must take time off from work to recover from their own serious health condition or to care for a new child or ill family member.

The Senate bill requires employers to offer employees up to 16 weeks of paid leave for family care and up to 26 weeks for temporary disability leave. Employees would be eligible for benefits after 1,250 hours of service for the employer, the current federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) standard.

“It is vitally important that our workforce has appropriate support and protections if they have to take medical leave to recover from a serious health issue or care for a recovering family member,” said Senator Jason Lewis.  “This lack of security harms families, the public health, and our economy.  Advancing this legislation will help working families.”

California, New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island currently require employers to provide paid family and medical leave for their employees, a benefit that many Massachusetts businesses voluntarily offer. Businesses offering paid family and medical leave have reported less employee turnover and savings associated with recruiting and training new employees, as well as improved morale and productivity.

While certain Massachusetts workers currently have access to unpaid leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), nearly 40% of workers are not eligible. A 2012 U.S. Department of Labor report points to the inability to afford unpaid leave as the primary reason workers do not take full advantage of leave under FMLA.

The bill creates a Family and Employment Security Trust Fund, run by the Department of Family and Medical Leave within the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, to administer paid leave benefits. Family care and temporary disability leave benefits would begin at 50% of an employee’s average weekly wage as of January 1, 2018 and increase to 70% in 2019 and 90% in 2020, with a maximum weekly benefit of $1,000, with flexibility included in the legislation for small business of ten or fewer employees. Employers and employees are anticipated to equally share the cost of contributions to the Family and Employment Security Trust Fund, although employers may opt to pay a greater share or the full amount of the contribution.

In addition, the bill protects and prevents retaliation against employees who use family or medical leave. Employees who take paid leave must be restored to their previous position, or to a substantially similar position, and they must remain eligible for previously accrued vacation time, sick time, bonuses, advancement or other employment benefits. Employers are also prohibited from requiring employees to exhaust rights to any sick, vacation or personal time prior to or while taking leave.

Although formal sessions have concluded for the term, the Senate will continue to work with the Massachusetts House of Representatives and Governor Baker to advance this effort.

Massachusetts Senate Passes Wage Theft Legislation with Support from Senator Jason Lewis

The Massachusetts Senate recently advanced important legislation pertaining to the issue of wage theft, S. 2416, An Act to prevent wage theft and promote employer accountability.  The wage theft bill gives the state greater power to go after corrupt employers and provides additional tools for the Attorney General’s office to hold violators fully accountable.

“Wage theft preys most often upon the most vulnerable members of the workforce and it must be prevented,” said Senator Jason Lewis.  “Hardworking Massachusetts workers deserve their rightful wages for the time and labor they put in.  This legislation provides important protections to realize that goal.”

Wage theft, the illegal practice of not paying employees for all of their work through means such as violating minimum wage laws, not paying overtime, or forcing workers to work off the clock, has become a pervasive problem throughout the Massachusetts economy and across the nation. Many workers who are by all definitions employees are often misclassified as “independent contractors,” thereby cheating them out of minimum or prevailing wages, and leaving them on the hook for medical costs if they are injured on the job.  Furthermore, employers may undermine legitimate businesses by avoiding taxes and not paying into critical safety nets for workers, putting an unfair burden on the Commonwealth when workers have a legitimate right to utilize these programs.  Immigrants are particularly vulnerable to wage theft due to a reluctance to speak out against employers. As a result, these workers can sometimes go weeks without pay, and when they do get paid, it can be less than originally promised.

To increase accountability in labor contracting and subcontracting, this wage theft bill makes a company that directly contracts with an entity who commits a wage theft violation liable for wages owed to any employee of the entity. In addition, any company that directly contracts with an entity who commits a wage theft violation is held liable for any of the associated penalties and fines, if that company knew or should have known about the violation.

This legislation also gives the Attorney General the ability to issue a stop work order in response to a wage theft violation. These stop work orders would take effect 96 hours after they are served and would only apply to the violator of wage theft laws. In addition, if a company has lapsed in its unemployment insurance obligations the Director of Unemployment Assistance would also be able to issue the same stop work order as the Attorney General.  Any person or entity who receives a stop work order will be provided with the opportunity to cure the violation within the 96 hours prior to the stop work order taking affect. Alleged violators are also provided with the right to a hearing upon written request within 10 days from the date the stop work order is served.  To protect employees affected by a stop work order, the bill requires that employees be paid for the period that the stop work order is in effect or the first 10 days the employee was scheduled to work had the stop order not been issued.

The bill also ensures that workers are aware of their rights under the law with regard to wage theft by requiring all parties who contract for labor or services post a notice of their rights in relation to a wage theft violation in a conspicuous location. Such notice of wage theft violations, rights, and remedies would be prepared by the Attorney General and must include: information describing wage theft violations; information about the notices, documentation, and other requirements placed on employees or contracted workers in order to exercise their rights to collect wages; a description of the protections that an employee has in exercising his or her rights in regards to wage theft; and, the name, address, phone number, and website of the Attorney General’s office where questions about the rights and responsibilities can be answered.

Although formal sessions have concluded for the term, the Senate will continue to work with the Massachusetts House of Representatives and Governor Baker to advance this effort.

Column: A Productive Legislative Session on Beacon Hill

The state legislature recently wrapped up formal sessions for the 2015-16 legislative session. Although the House and Senate will continue to meet until the end of the year in informal sessions, most major pieces of legislation are only considered during formal sessions. So, now is a good time to take stock of what the legislature and Governor Baker have accomplished over the past 18 months. It has been a productive legislative session with progress on a number of critical issues for our communities and our Commonwealth.

Notable bills that passed the legislature and were signed into law by the Governor include:

  • Opioid addiction prevention and treatment. The tragic opioid addiction crisis has hit our communities hard, and this legislation builds on efforts previously undertaken by the legislature to improve education, prevention, treatment, and recovery supports. The bill limits most first-time opiate prescriptions to seven days and further strengthens the state’s prescription monitoring program (PMP). Schools will be implementing an evidence-based screening program for risky behavior, and hospitals will be taking new steps to assess and treat patients who are admitted after an overdose.
  • Clean energy. Massachusetts is already a national leader in clean and renewable energy, and this bill will further advance the state’s efforts to fight climate change, reduce energy costs, and create new green jobs. The bill requires electric utilities to solicit competitive contracts for large offshore wind energy projects, as well as hydropower and other eligible clean energy resources. The state must also move forward with efforts to repair environmentally significant gas leaks, and evaluate energy storage procurement targets.
  • Gender pay equity. This historic legislation is aimed at closing the gender pay gap that hurts women and families. Women in Massachusetts earn on average 82 cents for every dollar a man earns. The bill defines “comparable work”, prohibits companies from asking prospective employees about their salary history until after a job offer has been made, and encourages businesses to do their own self-assessment and take proactive steps to reduce gender pay disparities in order to avoid wage discrimination lawsuits. The bill received the support of the business community, and is the strongest pay equity bill in the nation.
  • Public records reform. This long overdue update to our public records law, which I sponsored in the Senate, is critical to government transparency and accountability. The bill will ensure that the public and the media have convenient, timely, and affordable access to all government records that rightly belong in the public domain.
  • Ride-sharing oversight. This bill establishes a regulatory framework so that ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft can continue to flourish in Massachusetts while at the same time ensuring public safety. The bill establishes strong background checks for drivers, requires that ride-for-hire vehicles display appropriate decals, and ensures that appropriate levels of insurance are in place.
  • Transgender civil rights. This legislation prevents discrimination against transgender people in public accommodations, including restaurants, shops, hotels, and workplaces. It is a significant civil rights victory that reaffirms our commitment to treat all Massachusetts residents with respect and dignity.
  • Veterans benefits. This bill expands upon previous efforts to ensure that Massachusetts leads the nation in providing supports and benefits to our veterans and their families. The bill increases access to housing for low-income veterans, updates the public service scholarship program, and expands access to Gold Star family license plates (a provision inspired by Arthur Vars, a constituent who lives in Reading).

A number of other significant bills passed the Senate this legislative session but unfortunately did not make it all the way to the Governor’s desk. They include: implementing the recommendations of the Chapter 70 Foundation Budget Review Commission in order to ensure adequate and equitable funding for all our public schools; scaling back non-compete agreements that are unfair to workers and harm our state’s economy; protecting our youth from new tobacco products like fruit flavored cigars and e-cigarettes; and establishing a paid family and medical leave program in Massachusetts. I will continue to champion these bills, as well as other issues that impact the quality of life in our communities, in the next legislative session.

President Teddy Roosevelt once remarked that “in every wise struggle for human betterment one of the main objects, and often the only object, has been to achieve in large measure equality of opportunity.” These wise words have, and will continue to, guide my work on your behalf in the state Senate.

Landmark Pay Equity Legislation Signed Into Law, Strongest in the Nation

The Massachusetts Legislature passed, and Governor Charles Baker signed into law, a measure to ensure that men and women receive equitable compensation for comparable work. The new law prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender in the payment of wages for comparable work unless the variation is based upon a mitigating factor including: seniority; a system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production, sales, or revenue; education, training, or experience.

Notably, the law will prevent employers from requesting salary history in hiring, a measure designed to end the self-perpetuating cycle of wage disparity. Massachusetts would be the first state in the nation to adopt such a provision. However, prospective employees may voluntarily disclose their past salaries.

In Massachusetts, women earn on average approximately 82 cents for every dollar earned by men.  Women lose approximately $12 billion every year due to the wage gap.  In 40% of households with children, women are the primary earners.  This pay gap harms our families.

“This new law represents a deeply meaningful step in the effort to prevent workplace discrimination and close the gender pay gap,” said Senator Jason Lewis. “This measure not only enhances fairness in the workplace but also provides families with a stronger economic outlook as the wage gap shrinks.  I’m proud that Massachusetts continues to lead the nation on issues of fairness and equality.”

This law, which received substantial support from the business community, represents a consensus-based effort to ensure that the legislation would be practical, effective, and sustainable. Key to those efforts were defining “comparable work” and maintaining flexibility for performance-based compensation. The law incentivizes companies to correct compensation disparities internally before going to court by creating three-year affirmative defense from liability. Within that time period, employers must complete a self-evaluation of its pay practices and demonstrate reasonable progress in eliminating pay disparities.

The law also prohibits employers from reducing salaries in order to comply with the law, and it prohibits employers from preventing employees from talking about their salaries.  The legislation will take effect on January 1, 2018.