HR Update


By April 2, 2018 No Comments


Massachusetts has an updated equal pay law that goes into effect July 1, 2018, which will replace the state’s current equal pay law. Under the law, an employer is prohibited from discriminating in any way on the basis of gender in the payment of wages or paying any person a rate that is less than the rates paid to its employees of a different gender for comparable work. Comparable work is defined as work that is substantially similar in that it requires substantially similar skill, effort and responsibility and is performed under similar working conditions. Differences in pay for comparable work are permitted only under specific circumstances when based upon:

  • a system that rewards seniority with the employer (provided, however, that time spent on leave due to a pregnancy-related condition and protected parental, family and medical leave, shall not reduce seniority);
  • a merit system;
  •  a system which 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 particular job in question; or
  • travel, if the travel is a regular and necessary condition of the particular job.

Importantly, the updated law makes clear that an employee’s previous wage or salary history is not a defense to unequal pay. For example, if an employer pays a female sales associate less than a male sales associate who performs comparable work, the employer cannot justify that pay disparity based on the fact that the female sales associate earned less in her last job. Additionally, intent to discriminate based on gender is not required to establish liability under the law.

An employer found to have violated the law will generally be liable for twice the amount of the unpaid wages owed to the affected employee(s) – the differential between the employee’s wages and the wages paid to an employee of a different gender performing comparable work – plus reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs.

The updated law also adds the following key protections for employees and job applicants:

  • Employers may not prohibit employees from disclosing or discussing their wages.
  • Employers may not seek the salary or wage history of any prospective employee before making an offer of employment that includes compensation, and may not require that a prospective employee’s wage or salary history meet certain criteria.
  • Employers may not retaliate against any employee who exercises his or her rights under the law.

Massachusetts employers should review their employment and hiring practices to ensure compliance with the updated equal pay law, including handbooks and applications for employment. A model application for employment that does not ask for prior salary or wage history can be accessed here.

The Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General recently issued guidance related to the updated equal pay law in the form of frequently asked questions. The guidance and other information related to the updated equal pay law can be found here.

If you have questions or need assistance, please contact one of our HR Consultants at 888-622-6460.


*The information provided in this communication is general in nature and is for informational purposes only. It should not be construed as legal, tax, or accounting advice.

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