Mass: Bill Addresses Gender Wage Gap

By Diane Cadrain May 14, 2015
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House Bill 1733 has remained within the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development since it was filed on Jan. 20, 2015, but despite its failure to gain traction in the legislature, the proposal has generated intense reactions.

The bill addresses the gender wage gap—women’s median salaries in Massachusetts are 82 percent of men’s—by rooting out practices that allow disparities to continue.

The bill would make it illegal for employers to:

*Bar employees from talking about their wages with other employees.

*Run job listings without including the minimum rate of pay, how the pay is calculated, and whether it includes any allowances such as for tips, meals or lodging.

*Ask job candidates for salary history information.

*Release current or former employees’ salary information without written authorization from the employee.

These measures are aimed at bringing women’s salaries into line with men’s. Asking job candidates for their salary histories, for example, tends to perpetuate discrimination by making an existing salary a standard for payment in a new job. Requiring employers to disclose pay information in job listings prevents them from offering lower salaries during the hiring process. Barring employees from talking about their salaries prevents them from discovering gender-based inequities.

Bill sponsor Representative Jay Livingstone told the media that the bill “really is a chance to help close the wage gap, help people get paid what they deserve for the job they have, and help companies avoid litigation over salary disparities.”

The Massachusetts chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business, a small- employer group, has called the bill anti-small business and is asking members for feedback on how it would affect them.

Diane Cadrain is an attorney who has been writing about employment law issues for more than 20 years.

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