As we head into Summer, Massachusetts employers are reminded that beginning July 1, significant amendments to the Massachusetts Equal Pay Act will take effect.
Equal Pay for Equal Work
Existing state law already defines “comparable work” as “work that is substantially similar in that it requires substantially similar skill, effort and responsibility and is performed under similar working conditions.” The July 1 changes stipulate that the only acceptable reasons for a pay differential between employees of different sexes who do comparable work are the following:
A seniority system (time missed because of pregnancy or protected parental, family, or medical leave may not reduce seniority);
A merit system;
A system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production, sales, or revenue;
The geographic location in which a job is performed;
Education, training, or experience—to the extent such factors are reasonably related to the job;
Travel that is a regular and necessary condition of the job.
Salary History Inquiry Ban
The law makes it illegal for employers to ask an applicant about their salary history until an offer of employment that includes compensation has been made. If an applicant volunteers their salary history, an employer may verify it, but employers should not in any way encourage candidates to disclose this information. Salary history is not an acceptable reason for a pay differential.
Conduct a Self-Audit
The law provides a complete legal defense for employers that have conducted a good-faith and reasonable self-audit of its pay practices. The employer must complete the self-audit within the three year period prior to the initiation of a claim. To use this defense, the employer must demonstrate that, as a result of the self-audit, reasonable progress has been made toward eliminating any wage differentials based on gender for comparable work.
CheckWriters has built a pay equity evaluation tool into our platform which will help employers in Massachusetts conduct a self-audit in order to determine whether your organization is paying men and women the same.The CheckWriters Pay Equity Tool uses your organization's employee, department, and other relevant data to populate the data required on the pay equity tool released by the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office. You can watch a video on how it works here >
Other Action Items for Employers
Assess your overall pay structure, pay bands for job groups, and individual wages. This can be accomplished using the CheckWriters Pay Equity Tool. Focus on whether differences in pay can be fully and reasonably explained by the six factors allowed, and if they cannot, make adjustments.
Be aware that you cannot lower the compensation of one or more employees to equalize pay.
Remove any policies related to pay secrecy from handbooks, confidentiality policies, and offer letters, and ensure that those with the authority to discipline are aware of the protections provided by the law.
Train anyone involved in the interview process to steer clear of salary history questions.
Ensure that your application forms don’t ask for salary history.
For additional information, guidance on performing a self-evaluation, and a policy-and-practices checklist, bookmark or download this guide from the Massachusetts Attorney General.