Legislature Passes Landmark Bill to Dismantle the Gender Wage Gap
Legislation will be the strongest pay equity statute in the nation
The Massachusetts Legislature today passed a measure to ensure that men and women receive equitable compensation for comparable work. The bill 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 bill would prevents 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 would not be barred from voluntarily disclosing their past salaries.
“Massachusetts was the first state to pass a pay equity law over seventy years ago, yet women in the Commonwealth still make a fraction of every dollar earned by a man,” said Senate Committee on Ways and Means Chair Senator Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “In January, the Senate unanimously passed the bill that I sponsored with Senator Jehlen to close this unacceptable gap, with strong support from the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce and the Alliance for Business Leadership. With this historic legislation finally on its way to the Governor’s desk, we make it clear that in Massachusetts, women working hard to support their families deserve fair pay.”
This bill 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 bill 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.
- Prohibits employers from reducing salaries in order to comply with law.
- Prohibits an employer from preventing employees from talking about their salaries.
The legislation will take effect on July 1, 2018. It will now go to the Governor for his consideration.