Massachusetts demonstrates progress is possible on equal pay

On Aug. 1, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) signed into law a landmark pay equity bill, reminding equal pay advocates of what is possible when policymakers and stakeholders work together in bipartisan fashion to make concrete progress on equal pay. The legislation is a significant step forward, closing gaps in the protections previously available under state law, and helping to target discriminatory pay practices that depress women’s wages.

Among its most notable provisions, the Massachusetts law breaks new ground by limiting how employers can use salary history when making hiring or salary decisions. Specifically, the law prohibits employers from requiring or seeking information about an applicant’s prior wages as a condition of being hired or considered for a job, thus making clear that salaries should be determined by the value of the job in question rather than a prior job with no connection to what the new position requires. This is critical because women typically earn less than their male counterparts—even when controlling for factors such as education or seniority—thus if a prospective employer uses a job applicant’s prior salary when setting the salary for an open position, women will be at a perpetual disadvantage.

This article was originally published in The Hill.