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Get ready for Massachusetts Equal Pay Law: July 1, 2018
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Get ready for Massachusetts Equal Pay Law: July 1, 2018

Massachusetts agencies take note: On July 1, 2018, an updated equal pay law will go into effect in Massachusetts. The Commonwealth has actually had this law on the books since 1945, having been the first state in the country to pass an equal pay act. Despite this, women working full time earn only 84.3% of what men earn, on average, and the gap is even larger for some women of color.

To address this, the state has updated the law, issuing further definitions and clarifications. The updated Massachusetts Equal Pay Act (MEPA) will take effect July 1 of this year. The law prohibits any MA-based employer from pay discrimination for comparable work:

"No employer shall discriminate in any way on the basis of gender in the payment of wages, or pay any person in its employ a salary or wage rate less than the rates paid to its employees of a different gender for comparable work."

Respected corporate law attorney Owen Gallagher offers his helpful analysis for agents at his Agency Checklists site: Ten Points About The Massachusetts Equal Pay Law Taking Effect July 1, 2018. Among his key points, he notes that, "MEPA covers employers in Massachusetts irrespective of size. There is no exemption for employers with less than fifty, twenty-five, ten, five or two employees." He also points out that the intent to discriminate is legally irrelevant and that employers who are successfully sued must pay double damages and legal fees.

His article also links to guidance for employers on MEPA issued by the state's Attorney General. The guidance clarifies that MEPA permits differences in pay for comparable work only 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

See a more detailed analysis in Gallagher's prior article: New Law Bars Gender-Based Pay Differences And Prohibits Salary History Questions.

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