On July 1, 2018, an updated Massachusetts Equal Pay Act (MEPA) will go into effect. It’s the first update to the law since 1945 – the year when Massachusetts became the first state in the country to pass any sort of equal pay legislation.
What does the new law change?
The new law aims to provide “more clarity as to what constitutes unlawful wage discrimination” as well as add “protections to ensure greater fairness and equity in the workplace.”
One major change is the mandate that all employees must be paid the same for ‘comparable‘ work, as opposed to ‘equal‘ work as was previously required.
The law also makes significant changes to MEPA enforcement and penalties. Employees, who had been required to report equal pay issues to both their companies and the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, are now able to file a class action lawsuit or personal case directly with the Attorney General.
If pay discrimination is found, companies will owe double the difference between the male and female employee salaries, as well as all legal fees paid by the employee bringing suit. If a company can prove it is working toward pay equality, the penalty may be lessened to only the difference between wages.
What does the new law mean for my company?
After July 1, 2018, companies must pay all employees performing comparable work at the same rate. Comparable work is defined as: “work that requires substantially similar skill, effort, and responsibility, and is performed under similar working conditions.”
Differences in pay for comparable work will only be permissible based on any of the following six conditions:
- 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
- Travel, if the travel is a regular and necessary condition of the particular job.
In addition, employers can no longer ask job candidates what they are currently making, and employers cannot prevent employees from discussing how much they currently make.
What should I do now?
Companies have until July 1 to perform a thorough audit of their employees’ salaries and correct any discrepancies that would not be permissible under the new law. When doing this, wages, bonuses, and vacation must be taken into account.
Still have questions? For more information about the new law, refer to the state website, here.