Massachusetts Issues Guidance on Equal Pay Law (1)

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By Aaron Nicodemus

Massachusetts issued guidance March 1 to assist employers in complying with the state’s Equal Pay Act, which takes effect July 1.

The law prohibits employers from requesting salary history in hiring. The guidance clarifies that employers can’t prevent workers from discussing their salaries or retaliate against those who assert their rights under the law.

The 30-page guideline, issued by state Attorney General Maura Healey, describes situations where variations in pay between men and women are acceptable. Those include salaries that reflect seniority or merit raises, education, and factors like regional differences in pay.

The equal pay law “does not recognize any other valid reasons for variations in pay between men and women performing comparable work,” the guidance said.

The law also prohibits employers from reducing a person’s seniority for the time spent on pregnancy leave or family or medical leave.

Violators “will be liable for twice the amount of the unpaid wages owed to the affected employee(s),” plus attorney’s fees and costs, according to the guidance.

Several major employers contacted by Bloomberg Law said they were aware of the law but declined further comment.

In Massachusetts, on average, women working full time earn 84.3 percent of what men earn, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The gap is even larger for some women of color.

The resulting wage gap is $11 billion, the guidance says.

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