Earlier this month, Massachusetts’ Republican governor signed into law a bipartisan bill requiring employers to pay men and women equally for similar work. The law’s basic requirement is one in place in many states and under federal law, but one novel feature may become the model for similar measures throughout the U.S.
The new law prohibits employers from asking applicants for employment about their salary history during the hiring process. This ban is intended to prevent situations where unequal pay at prior jobs perpetuates itself throughout the employee’s career when salary at subsequent employers is based on prior income levels. Employers would need to establish equal salaries for persons in the same or similar positions instead of basing such pay on the applicant’s current salary.
The law’s bipartisan support arose in part by giving employers the flexibility to justify salaries paid to employees on a range of business factors such as education, experience, and performance. Employers also will have up to three years to adjust current salary levels to meet the law’s requirements before being subject to enforcement actions.