‘Pay equity’ legislation passes Mass. House

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2016/07/15/pay-equity-legislation-passes-mass-house/

BOSTON — The Massachusetts House on Thursday unanimously approved a bill supporters claim will narrow the so-called wage gap by increasing transparency and establishing guidelines for courts adjudicating claims of wage discrimination.

The measure amends existing state law, which has prohibited wage discrimination since 1945, to outlaw workplace policies that prevent workers from comparing compensation.

The House bill also prohibits employers from requesting salary history when hiring and addresses the procedures that judges adjudicating such claims must follow. Under the bill, an employer charged with wage discrimination must demonstrate in court that it has implemented “a job evaluation plan” that is “free of any gender bias” and “allow[s] for the comparison of all jobs.”

But pro-business groups claim that bias cannot be discerned by comparing unrelated positions (such as attorney and paralegal or construction worker and administrative assistant) and that job evaluation plans should not attempt to do so.

The Massachusetts Senate approved its own version of pay equity legislation in January. The measure will now go to a joint House-Senate committee, which must iron out discrepancies in the two versions of the legislation.

Activists claim the legislation is necessary because Bay State women earn only 82 cents for every $1 paid to men. But June O’Neill of the American Enterprise Institute argues that such numbers are misleading because they compare women and men across professions and do not account for career choices, productivity, or hours worked. When the wages of female employees are compared to those of similarly situated men performing the same job, O’Neill says, the wage gap essentially disappears.

The Massachusetts legislation must pass before the state legislative session ends July 31 if it is to become law.