The State Senate has passed a bill to close the wage gap between men and women workers in Massachusetts. The legislation, which passed unanimously, mandates equal pay for comparable work, boosts wage transparency and requires the hiring process to be fair.
Women comprise almost half the state’s workforce, but earn roughly 82% of what men make. African American women earn 66 cents for every dollar made by male workers; Latina women only 54 cents.
“It’s a disgrace we aren’t further ahead,” said State Senator Mike Barrett, D-Lexington. He points to a policy analysis estimating that, at the current rate of progress, the gender wage gap in Massachusetts won’t close until 2058. “My two grown daughters don’t want to wait that long,” Barrett said, “and I’m with them. We have to force the issue.”
The bill defines “comparable work” as jobs similar in skill, effort, responsibility and performance, and done in similar working conditions. At the same time, it allows for variations based on differences such as employee education, training and experience.
One feature of the Massachusetts Equal Pay Act makes it illegal for employees to be fired for discussing their compensation with co-workers. Another part prevents retaliation against employees who file complaints.
The legislation won the support of Attorney General Maura Healey, Treasurer Deb Goldberg, the Alliance for Business Leadership and the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce.
To protect all employees, the bill prevents employers from reducing the pay of anyone in order to comply. The bill prohibits companies from screening applicants based on salary history. The legislation also makes it easier for pay equity claims to be filed.
“Massachusetts was the first state to pass a pay equity law over seventy years ago, yet women in the Commonwealth still make only 82 cents for every dollar earned by a man,” said Senator Karen Spilka, D-Ashland, Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “Women working hard to support their families deserve fair pay, and this bill is an important step to close this unacceptable gap and ensure equal pay for equal work.”
The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.