The Massachusetts Senate passed legislation this week to strengthen the Massachusetts Equal Pay Act to further close the wage gap between male and female workers in the Commonwealth. The bill seeks to bridge the wage gap by ensuring equal pay for comparable work, establishing pay transparency, and requiring fairness in hiring practices.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a woman working full-time in Massachusetts earns 82 cents for every dollar a man in Massachusetts earns. A report by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research projects that the gender wage gap in Massachusetts will not close on its own until 2058.
“The wage gap costs women and their families approximately $12 billion a year,” noted Senator Jason Lewis. “Especially when 40% of families with children have a woman as the primary breadwinner, it is clear that the wage gap harms families and our economy overall. This important legislation will help achieve true equality in the workplace and will further strengthen our economy.”
The bill strengthens current law by defining the term “comparable work” within the Massachusetts Equal Pay Act to ensure comparable work is truly comparable in pay. Variations in pay may exist for comparable work if the difference is based on a bona fide merit system, a system that measures earnings based on production or sales, differences based on geographic location or education, training or experience reasonably related to the particular job. The bill also prohibits an employer from reducing the pay of any employee in order to comply with the Massachusetts Equal Pay Act.
The bill encourages pay transparency, while ensuring that salary history is not used against employees when negotiating for a new job. The bill prohibits employers from banning employees from discussing or disclosing information about their own wages or other employees’ wages. The bill also prohibits employers from screening prospective employees based on previous wages or salary history or requesting this information in the interview process.
The bill prohibits retaliation against an employee who opposes any act in violation of the Massachusetts Equal Pay Act, files a complaint or participates in an investigation or discusses wages with another employee. In addition, the bill includes several updates to the way a pay equity claim may be filed to make it easier for individuals to make timely claims and ease administrative barriers to filing a pay equity claim.
The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.