Tuesday, August 9, 2016
While struggles over equal pay continues in the federal forum, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, in a bi-partisan action, passed legislation that vastly enhances the likelihood of women overcoming pay inequities within the Commonwealth. Signed into law by Governor Baker, the legislation was neither speedy nor innovative. Since 1998, some variation on the Equal Pay Act was filed in the Massachusetts legislature. In Massachusetts, the pay gap for women is only marginally better than the national average- 82 cents for every dollar earned by a man. And, that figure seems not to reveal the starkly lower pay earned by women of color.
The law addressed concerns of both employers and female workers. For example, some definition is given to employers of what comparable work means. Additionally, the law provides that unequal pay cannot be remedied through a lowering of wages. Importantly, employers are prohibited from asking for an applicant's salary history during the interview process.
The Massachusetts Equal Pay law is a huge advancement for women. The law was promoted by a collaborative of women's associations and a partnership of public and private entities. As with most change, shifting local practices is essential. Perhaps the legislative success will spread beyond Massachusetts borders.