Senator Joan B. Lovely
State Senator
2nd Essex District


July 25, 2016

Legislature Passes Landmark Bill to Dismantle the Gender Wage Gap

Legislation will be the strongest pay equity statute in the nation

(Boston) – The Massachusetts Legislature today passed a measure to ensure that men and women receive equitable compensation for comparable work. The bill prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender in the payment of wages for comparable work unless the variation is based upon a mitigating factor including seniority; a system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production, sales, or revenue; education, training or experience.

Notably, the bill would prevents employers from requesting salary history in hiring, a measure designed to end the self-perpetuating cycle of wage disparity. Massachusetts would be the first state in the nation to adopt such a provision. However, prospective employees would not be barred from voluntarily disclosing their past salaries.

“The House is proud to have fostered consensus that will ensure a workable, effective implementation,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop). “I want to offer my sincerest thanks to the legislators who have raised their voices and tenaciously pursued this issue for decades. Your work will shape a better and more just future for women in the Commonwealth.”

The Senate put pay equity on the Legislative agenda in January and I am pleased that we will soon move this compromise bill to the Governor’s desk.  This bill will protect women from discrimination in the workplace and close the gender pay gap,” said Senate President Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst).  “I thank my colleagues in both the Senate and House for taking on this important issue for the people of the Commonwealth.”

 “I’m proud that we all could come together to take this historic step in eliminating gender discrimination in wages,” said Speaker Pro Tempore Patricia A. Haddad (D-Somerset). “This is a piece of legislation that will stand the test of time and positively affect the Commonwealth’s economy”

“This is a historic milestone for the millions of working women in our state who, for generations, have cared for themselves and their families with lower wages than they both needed and deserved,” said Senator Pat Jehlen (D-Somerville) and Senate sponsor of the bill. “I am so happy for my granddaughters, who will enter a much fairer workforce and won’t have to battle the same gender wage gap that has held back women’s salaries for too long.”

“By passing this compromise bill today, the legislature took a huge step not only for women, but also for men who believe in fairness and equity at the workplace for all the citizens of the Commonwealth,” said Senator Dan Wolf (D-Harwich), Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development. “This bill gives employers and employees tools to use to do a deep dive, examine our souls, our hearts, our minds, our wallets, our balance sheets, and our profit and loss statements to make sure that the values that we embody here in these chambers are expressed in the behavior through our economy.”

Massachusetts was the first state to pass a pay equity law over seventy years ago, yet women in the Commonwealth still make a fraction of every dollar earned by a man,” said Senate Committee on Ways and Means Chair Senator Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “In January, the Senate unanimously passed the bill that I sponsored with Senator Jehlen to close this unacceptable gap, with strong support from the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce and the Alliance for Business Leadership. With this historic legislation finally on its way to the Governor’s desk, we make it clear that in Massachusetts, women working hard to support their families deserve fair pay.”

This bill represents a consensus-based effort to ensure that the legislation would be practical, effective and sustainable. Key to those efforts were defining “comparable work” and maintaining flexibility for performance-based compensation. The bill incentivizes companies to correct compensation disparities internally before going to court by creating three-year affirmative defense from liability. Within that time period employers must complete a self-evaluation of its pay practices and demonstrate reasonable progress in eliminating pay disparities.

It also:

  •  Prohibits employers from reducing salaries in order to comply with law.
  • Prohibits an employer from preventing employees from talking about their salaries.

The legislation will take effect of July 1, 2018. It will now go to the Governor for his consideration.