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The MA Pay Equity Act

What Employers Need to Know (and DO) Right Now

Businesses might think they have a lot of time to prepare for the Massachusetts Pay Equity Act, scheduled to take effect on July 1st, 2018. What they underestimate is the time and resources it will take to properly analyze job titles, job responsibilities, salary/compensation levels and documenting their good faith effort to create an equitable workplace.

They actually need to begin NOW.

MA Pay Equity -- Starting Point  

Let's start with an old TV show - The Mary Tyler Moore Show, to illustrate the problem: 

MA Pay Equity Act - Start Preparing Now

Mary: "I would like to know why the last associate producer before me made $50 a week more than I do."

Lou Grant: "Oh, because he was a man."

The MA Pay Equity Act was written into law to correct a gaping disparity in compensation between men and women who are performing similar types of work and who have similar types of responsibilities. 

Read more about the specifics of the MA Pay Equity Act

Here is a summary of the major components that will impact MA businesses, along with some Next Steps.

MA Pay Equity Act -- Who is Impacted and When?

This will apply to all size employers in Massachusetts, with an effective date of July 1st, 2018

MA Pay Equity Act - Comparable Work Definition

Work that is substantially similar in that it requires substantially similar skill, effort and responsibility and is performed under similar working conditions. A job title or job description alone shall not determine comparability.

MA Pay Equity Act - Working Conditions

Shall include the environmental and other similar circumstances customarily taken into consideration in setting salary or wages, including, but not limited to, reasonable shift differentials, and the physical surroundings and hazards encountered by employees performing a job.

MA Pay Equity Act - The Challenge for Employers

The definition of “comparable work” under the new law is so vague that employers will have difficulty determining which jobs to compare for purposes of complying with the Act.

MA Pay Equity Act -- The Defense for Employers

Under the new law, an employer is not liable if they can demonstrate that a pay difference for comparable work is based on one or more of the following factors:

  1. bona fide seniority system (time spent on leave due to pregnancy-related condition or protected parental, family and medical leave, does not reduce seniority)
  2. bona fide merit system
  3. bona fide system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production or sales
  4. the geographic region where the work is performed
  5. education, training or experience that they are related to a particular job
  6. travel, if a necessary and required condition for a particular job

MA Pay Equity Act - Pay History Requirements

You are prohibited from

  • Asking an applicant about salary history prior to extending an offer
  • Screening job candidates based on their past wages

MA Pay Equity Act - job candidates - can't ask pay history

MA Pay Equity Act - Pay Secrecy Requirements

Employers cannot prohibit employees’ discussion of their own wages or the wages of others. This was always the rule under the NLRA for non-management, but it now applies to everyone.

MA Pay Equity Act - What to Worry About  

  • Employees may file a claim within 3 years of a violation
  • Each paycheck can constitute a new violation
  • A claim can be made against you even when there is no intent to discriminate
  • No requirement to file a claim with MCAD or the Attorney Generals' Office
  • This has class action suit potential all over it!

MA Pay Equity Act - What is Your Liability?


  • Unpaid wages (amount of pay difference)
  • Liquidated damages equal to the amount of the unpaid wages
  • Attorney’s fees and costs

MA Pay Equity Act - Next Steps You Should Take

  • Complete a self-evaluation of pay practices in good faith
  • Demonstrate that reasonable progress has been made towards eliminating wage differentials based on gender for comparable work

But Don’t Wait Until July 1, 2018

Contact MassPay to discuss job analysis, pay scales/compensation assessment & preparing your business for this new law (while you have time).