Category: Pay Equity

Baker signs gender pay gap bill

Just after 4 p.m. Monday, Gov. Charlie Baker put pen to paper and enshrined in law the notion that men and women performing the same work should be paid equally.

After faltering on Beacon Hill in previous sessions, gender pay equity got a vigorous push this session from lawmakers, business organizations and advocates. Baker identified it as one of six major bills he hoped the Legislature would pass so he could sign it.

“Our daughters and granddaughters, and our sons and grandsons, will face a fairer work environment than we have,” Sen. Patricia Jehlen, who sponsored the bill with Reps. Ellen Story and Jay Livingstone, said. “This will help reduce income inequality. Fewer women will raise their children in poverty and those children will have a better chance to succeed in life and succeed in school.”

She added, “Today in Massachusetts we say, equal pay for equal work is not just a slogan, it’s the law.”

Baker signed the bill with Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, cabinet secretaries Marylou Sudders and Kristen Lepore, Treasurer Deborah Goldberg, Auditor Suzanne Bump, former Lt. Gov. Evelyn Murphy, about two dozen lawmakers, Senate President Stan Rosenberg, and House Speaker Robert DeLeo by his side.

“This is a Commonwealth of Mass. that in 1954 passed the first legislation around gender discrimination and I think it’s incredibly apt that we would be one of the first states in the country here today to pass legislation to ensure that people are paid what they are worth, based only on what they are worth,” Baker said.

The bill (S 2119) prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender in the payment of wages for comparable work “unless the variation is based upon a mitigating factor” including seniority, education, training, experience, or a bona fide merit system like one that measures earnings by sales.

The compromise contains a Senate-backed provision that forbids businesses from requiring a job applicant disclose their previous salary history, though the employer may inquire about previous salaries after making a job and compensation offer to the prospective employee.

It also encourages businesses to evaluate their own pay practices and would allow self-evaluations to be used as an affirmative defense in a pay discrimination claim, if they were conducted within the previous three years and the employer could demonstrate “reasonable progress” toward closing pay differentials. The evaluation and any steps taken to close a gap could not be used as evidence of a violation of pay equity.

“It makes our families stronger, our state stronger and our economies thrive,” Goldberg said. “Wage equality is not just a women’s issue, it is a family issue. It is good for the economic security for each and every family in Massachusetts and the economic stability of the commonwealth.”

DeLeo said the pay equity bill “gets to the heart of who we are as Americans.”

Rosenberg counted it alongside an increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit as part of a Senate platform to help low- and middle-class families. He made a not-so-subtle pitch for the third piece of that platform: a paid family and medical leave bill the Senate passed on Saturday, on the eve of the end of formal sessions for the year.

Story, an Amherst Democrat who is retiring after more than 24 years in the House, said she first filed a gender pay equity bill in 1995.

“This is a good day,” she said. “Better late than never.”

The legislation most closely resembles the version approved unanimously by the House, which business organizations like Associated Industries of Massachusetts, the Alliance for Business Leadership and the Massachusetts Business Roundtable had supported.

The bill cleared the Legislature with unanimous support, the House enacted the bill 151-0 and the Senate did so 40-0.

A study from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research reported earlier this year that the state’s earnings ratio placed Massachusetts in 18th place nationally for pay equity and, without changes, the state’s wage gap was expected to persist until 2058.

Rep. Patricia Haddad, whom DeLeo credited with pushing the bill over the finish line this session, charged everyone present for the bill signing to make equal pay for equal work a central tenant of what they teach their children.

“To change the culture, we have to bring up our sons to remind them that there is no difference, that they should revere and push forward their sisters, their wives, of course their mothers, and be the culture change,” she said. “We’ve committed to it, now you have to go out and raise your sons and daughters to know that there is no difference, that equal means equal.”

Massachusetts House passes pay equity bill

The Massachusetts House on Thursday passed a bill aimed at ensuring that women are paid equally for equal work.

“Some of us have been working on this bill since 1998,” said state Rep. Ellen Story, D-Amherst. “This is a happy day that we are passing it.”

The bill passed by a unanimous vote of 158-0, amid cheers in the House chamber.

Massachusetts was the first state to pass a law requiring men and women be paid the same amount for comparable work, in 1945. The bill that was passed Thursday, H.4509, updates and clarifies the law. The bill received support from both business groups and women’s rights groups, after earlier drafts underwent significant revisions to ensure that the bill advances the cause of equal pay without unduly hurting businesses.

Several lawmakers noted the long journey for women to gain equality in the workplace. “When I vote today, I have the great sense I’ll be standing on the shoulders of and giving thanks to the many feminists who have toiled for decades to bring us to where we are today,” said state Rep. Sarah Peake, D-Provincetown.

The bill clarifies and updates the definition of “comparable work,” and defines what factors can be used to determine salaries. The bill would make it illegal for employers to prevent employees from discussing their salaries. The bill also prohibits employers from asking job applicants about their salary history during an interview. The bill protects employers from equal pay lawsuits for three years if they complete self-evaluations and take steps to move toward pay equity.

The House version has the backing of business groups, as well as women’s rights advocates.

House Speaker Robert DeLeo, D-Winthrop, called it a matter of “basic fairness” that if a man and a woman are doing the same job, they get paid the same amount. “In this day and age … for us to still be talking about this is wrong,” DeLeo said. “And this gives us the opportunity to rectify it.”

DeLeo said he hopes if enough states pass equal pay laws, eventually the law can be strengthened at a federal level.

State Rep. Jay Livingstone, D-Boston, an employment lawyer, said, “It is humbling that we can sit in the chamber and play a role in chipping away at the inequities of our society, as we’re doing today.”

Livingstone called it a “waste in the economy” when half of the workforce feels undervalued.

According to a study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, women working full time in Massachusetts earn 81 cents for every dollar men earn.

The Senate passed its own version of the bill in January. It will now go to a committee of House-Senate negotiators, who must negotiate a final version of the bill and pass it before the session ends July 31.

Attorney General Maura Healey issued a statement after the bill’s passage saying the bill “makes much-needed updates to the law to reflect our modern economy and carefully balances the needs of workers and the business community.”

Massachusetts Senate OKs bill that would ensure equal pay

Associated Press
By Steve LeBlanc

BOSTON (AP) — The Massachusetts Senate unanimously approved a bill Thursday that would ensure men and women earn equal pay for comparable work.

The legislation would prohibit employers from discriminating based on gender when it comes to wages and other compensation. The bill defines comparable work as jobs requiring similar skills, effort and level of responsibility.

The bill would allow variations in pay if the difference is based on a true merit system that measures earnings based on production or sales, on geographic location or education, or on training or experience related to the job.

Employers also would no longer be able to ban employees from discussing or disclosing information about their wages or other employees’ wages.

Companies that violate the proposed law could be fined up to $1,000, and employees who believe they’re discriminated against could go to court to recover unpaid wages.

Supporters point to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics which they say show a woman working full time in Massachusetts earns 82 cents for every dollar a man earns.

‘‘Women working hard to support their families deserve fair pay, and this bill is an important step to close this unacceptable gap,’’ said state Sen. Karen Spilka, Democratic chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means and a sponsor of the bill.

Critics say lawmakers are well-meaning, but misguided.

Massachusetts High Technology Council spokesman Mark Gallagher had urged the Senate to reject the bill.

‘‘The legislation is a classic example of a well-intended proposal that is highly likely to result in unintended consequences,’’ Gallagher said in a written statement.

He said the bill would make it difficult and risky for employers to reward any worker — female or male — through commissions and other merit-based or performance-based compensation systems. He cited what he said was the high burden of proof employers would have to meet to justify higher pay for some workers.

The law could end up discouraging an employer from paying more to a woman employee who is performing at a higher level than a male counterpart, he added.

Top statewide Democratic officials, including Attorney General Maura Healey and state Treasurer Deb Goldberg, support the bill.

Asked about the bill earlier this week, Republican Gov. Charlie Baker said it’s already illegal under state law to discriminate on pay based on gender.

‘‘I certainly believe that anything we can do to make sure that Massachusetts continues to be a place where no matter who you are you believe you’re getting a fair shot with respect to employment is a good thing,’’ he said. ‘‘But the devil often times is in the details with this stuff.’’

The bill now heads to the House.

Democratic House Speaker Robert DeLeo said he’s always favored equal pay for equal work, but still needs to look at all the provisions of the bill.

Boston chamber throws its support behind pay equity bill

By Sacha Pfeiffer and Jon Chesto
The day before a bill aimed at closing the gender wage gap in Massachusetts is expected to go before the state Senate for a vote, one of the state’s biggest business groups has come out in favor of the legislation.

In a statement on Wednesday, Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce president and CEO James E. Rooney noted that half the city’s workforce is female and said that “wage inequality not only affects businesses, it also has a negative impact on families and the overall Massachusetts economy.”

The bill would prohibit employers from seeking a job candidate’s salary history, since asking a woman to disclose her earnings, which are historically lower than men’s, could put her at a competitive disadvantage.

It would also require companies to allow employees to openly discuss their salaries.

Rooney said the chamber is “proud to be a vocal supporter” of the legislation.

But another major business group in the state, the 4,500-member Associated Industries of Massachusetts, sounded a cautionary note in a dueling statement Wednesday. In its statement, the group noted that while it supports existing statutes outlawing discriminatory pay, some employers consider the bill “counterproductive.”

“The legislation encourages unbridled litigation rather than addressing the many complex issues surrounding pay and equity in the workplace,” said the statement, which the group said it plans to send to the Senate.

It’s unusual for the Chamber of Commerce and AIM, two of the state’s most powerful business groups, to take dramatically different positions on a piece of legislation.

In fact, representatives from the Chamber, AIM, the Massachusetts Business Roundtable, and the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation typically meet once a month to discuss policy issues. Often, they have a goal of presenting a united front to state lawmakers, representing the region’s business community. That’s not going to happen, at least not anymore, with the equal-pay bill.

The final version of the bill addressed previous concerns chamber officials had. Rooney said the current bill “supports both employees and employers by bringing greater guidance to differences in pay while preventing baseless lawsuits and burdensome regulations.”

If the Senate approves the bill, it would then be sent to the House. Speaker Robert DeLeo said on Monday that he supports the end goal behind the equal-pay legislation but needs to learn more about the specific proposal before deciding whether to back it.

Pay Equity Bill Placed on Senate Agenda

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE — State senators have until 5 p.m. on Monday to file amendments to pay equity legislation that is set to hit the floor next week. The latest version of the bill (S 2107) was recommended by Sen. Karen Spilka and the Ways and Means Committee that she chairs. The Senate adopted an order Thursday morning teeing the bill up for consideration next week. Among its many provisions, the bill defines “comparable work” within the Massachusetts Equal Pay Act, increases the fine for pay equity violations from $100 to $1,000, and requires employers to post a notice to employees of their rights under the act. The bill also bans employers from reducing the pay of an employee to comply with the act, clarifies that the attorney general may bring an action to collect unpaid wages on behalf of one or more employees, and adds four conditions, in addition to seniority, where variations in pay may exist for comparable work, according to a bill summary. – Michael Norton/SHNS