Massachusetts pay equity bill is expected to move forward

The law would strengthen the 1945 statute that prohibits gender-based wage discrimination.

The Massachusetts State House in Boston, Massachusetts.
The equal pay measure is expected to win approval in the House on Thursday. –Carolyn Bick for Boston.com

It’s been a long road for pay equity advocates in Massachusetts, but a state equal pay bill is expected to win approval in the House this week, according to The Boston Globe.

The legislation would strengthen the 1945 statute that prohibits gender-based wage discrimination by promoting salary transparency, restricting prospective employers from asking candidates upfront about salary history, and encouraging companies to conduct reviews to look for pay disparities. Under the law, employers who conduct salary reviews would not have to fear lawsuits if gender disparities were found and they made moves to fix them.

On Tuesday, the bill emerged from the House Ways and Means Committee with modest adjustments that are expected to be backed by major employers and the bill’s largest critic, the trade group Associated Industries of Massachusetts, according to the Globe.

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Supporters of the bill hope it will help close the persistent wage gap that causes Massachusetts women on average to make just 82 cents for every dollar a man earns.

The Globe reports:

The inspiration for the original bill came after a group of female cafeteria workers sued the Everett Public Schools in 1991 in what was the first legal test of the state’s pay equity law. The women argued that they were doing comparable work as the male janitors in the schools, such as cleaning and lifting heavy objects, but were paid half as much.

Though the female cafeteria workers won, the Supreme Judicial Court overturned the verdict, saying the state equal pay law was not clear in its definition of “comparable work.”

To avoid any similarly confusing situations in the future, the equal pay bill contains a clear definition of comparable work as “similar jobs with similar pay, regardless of title,” the Globe reports.

Read the full Globe story here.

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