Last week, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed into law S.2119, an act referred to as the Pay Equity Act. The Act contains the following prohibitions and important remedies.
- Employers are prohibited from paying employees differently because of their gender for comparable work. Employers who violate this provision must pay double the disparity and attorneys’ fees to the impacted employee. Employers can avoid liability by establishing that they have conducted a good-faith audit within the three years preceding the claim and that they have made reasonable efforts to eliminate pay disparity.
- Employers cannot (1) force employees to refrain from discussing or disclosing information regarding their own wages or other employees’ wages; (2) screen candidates based upon their wage history; (3) require applicants to disclose wage history as a condition of being interviewed or as a condition of continuing to be considered for an offer of employment; (4) seek the salary history of any prospective employee without their authorization; and (5) retaliate against anyone for exercising these rights. Employers who violate one or more of these five prohibitions must pay the impacted employee an amount equal to double his or her lost wages and attorneys’ fees.
- The Act 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.” Variations in compensation and benefits may be permitted under certain specific circumstances, including a bona fide seniority or merit system; a system under which earnings are measured by quantity or quality of production or sales; geographic location; education; training; and experience. These factors, however, must be reasonably related to the job and consistent with business necessity.
This law does not go into effect until January 1, 2018, so there is an opportunity to plan ahead to comply with its provisions. We suspect that the attorney general will issue regulations interpreting this Act. For updates on those regulations and on any changes to the law’s provisions and requirements, please contact the lawyers in our employment group.