Pay equity is law! Know your new rights.
On Monday, August 1, something big happened for women in Massachusetts.
A landmark pay equity bill, years in the making, was finally signed into law by Governor Charlie Baker.
At the bill signing celebration hosted by the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women, attendees were reminded that this historic progress was only made possible through decades of persistent advocacy, and bringing more and more supporters into the fight.
Evelyn Murphy, former Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts, demonstrated this by holding up a list of the original members of the equal pay coalition and comparing it to the present day list of members.
YW Boston is proud to have been among the original supporters.
“A coalition is like a muscle,” Murphy said. “If you don’t flex it, it will atrophy.” She called upon audience to talk to women not in the room, to make sure they know their rights and can make their voices heard.
To make sure the law is enforced and truly makes systemic change for gender equity, all women throughout the Commonwealth need to know their rights and feel confident to speak up when an employer is not complying with the rules about pay equity. Read on for your new rights under the law.
1) A potential employer cannot ask you for a salary history.
This is a groundbreaking new right. Employers historically have used salary history as a factor in determining an offer for a new employee, ostensibly as a way to inform a reasonable offer package. Instead, what salary histories frequently do is make women, and other groups of people who are often discriminated against in hiring and compensation, carry around the negative consequences of this discrimination for a lifetime. A young woman who is paid less than her male counterpart at her first job, is then likely to be offered less at her next job. Over the course of a career, these losses compound to lead to a significant gap in women’s overall earnings.
“This law is so important, and different from previous efforts, because of the prohibition on employers seeking a salary history,” said YW Boston President & CEO Sylvia Ferrell-Jones. “Salary histories perpetuated underpayment of women and others that suffer wage discrimination. By making it unlawful to request a salary history, this law disrupts a cycle of discrimination and will create systems change.”
2) You can freely talk to your coworkers about salaries without fear of repercussion.
Believe it or not, this was not necessarily a right before. Previously, employees could be legally disciplined by their employers for sharing information about their salary or compensation, based on the employer’s policies. Now, such retaliation is prohibited. This allows for women to gather more information about if they are experiencing wage inequity, and to work together to advocate for change with their employer.
3) You can’t be reduced in seniority because of family or medical leave.
Seniority is frequently cited as the reason between individual differences in compensation. While this is still a valid criterion for pay differentials, the law protects people from being docked in seniority based on time spent away from work due to a pregnancy-related condition, or on protected parental, family, or medical leave.
Finally, the law makes it easier to take formal legal action on behalf of your rights in these matters. It removes the previous requirement to file a charge with the Massachusetts Commission on Discrimination before being able to file a lawsuit. It also provides that should you be found correct in your case, you may receive attorneys’ fees, costs, and liquidated damages from your employer, in addition to lost wages, benefits or other compensation.