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MA’s Awesome New Pay Equity Bill Prevents Salary History from Keeping Women’s Wages Down

MA pay equity bill

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Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker will sign a pay equity bill into law next week. The bill requires employers to pay men and women equally for comparable work and prevents any employer from asking job-seekers for their salary history. Massachusetts will be the first state in the U.S. to pass a pay equity law. Many supporters hope this is the beginning of a national trend:

Supporters say women are currently paid on average about 82 percent of what their male counterparts make for comparable work in Massachusetts. The bill attempts to define what constitutes comparable work.

Preventing employers from asking prospective employees for their salary history also has profound implications. It can create a vicious cycle of low pay:

Since many employers establish new-hire salary levels based on the new employee’s past salary level, passage of the pay equity bill in Massachusetts could require HR leaders and hiring managers to come up with new ways to evaluate a job-seeker’s value.

[…] When starting salaries are flexible based on various criteria…[employers] won’t be able…to say, “Well, you were getting paid $50,000 at your last job, so we’ll pay you $53,000 here.”

Employers, too, can benefit from the potential advantages of this change:

When an employee is underpaid, the gap between his or her wages and the prevailing market wage represents an opportunity for another employer to grab that employee simply by paying him or her the market rate. It’s not good business to give your competitors opportunities to steal your talent!

The measure was approved unanimously by the Masschusettes House and Senate.


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