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Downing: Legislature Passes Landmark Bill to Dismantle the Gender Wage Gap
July 23, 2016

BOSTON Senator Benjamin B. Downing (D – Pittsfield) announces that 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.

“Equal pay for equal work can't just be a campaign slogan,” said Senator Downing. “It should be a reality and passage of this legislation is one step closer to precisely that”.

Notably, the bill 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.

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.

The bill also prohibits employers from reducing salaries in order to comply with law prohibits an employer from preventing employees from talking about their salaries. It will be the strongest equal pay statute in the nation.

The legislation would take effect on July 1, 2018. It will now go to the Governor for his consideration.

 

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