Equal Pay for Comparable Work: Don’t Get Caught on the Wrong Side of the Law or History

Effective July 1st, 2018 – the Massachusetts Equal Pay Act (MEPA) will become the law of Massachusetts, guaranteeing that: “No employer shall discriminate in any way on the basis of gender in the payment of wages, or pay any person in its employ a salary or wage rate less than the rates paid to its employees of a different gender for comparable work.”

For MA employers and payroll companies alike, this closer analysis of fair payment practice will bring long-overdo regulation for some, and a wake-up call for others. As an employer, if you find yourself questioning whether you could have a pay equality issue at your business, NOW is the time to take appropriate actions to balance wage distribution in your workplace.

MEPA is established to protect both employees and job applicants, stating that:

  • Employers may not prohibit employees from disclosing or discussing wages.
  • Employers may not seek salary or wage history of any prospective employee before making an offer of employment that includes compensation, and may not require that a prospective employee’s wage or salary history meet certain criteria.
  • Employers may not retaliate against any employee who exercises his or her rights under the law.
  • Employees whose rights under MEPA have been violated have three years from the date of an alleged violation to bring an action in court.

The law defines “comparable work” as work that consists of similar skill, effort, and responsibility under similar working conditions. There are a few scenarios where differences in pay for comparable work are permitted:

  • A pay system based on seniority as long as seniority is not affected by time spent on pregnancy, parental, family, or medical leave
  • A strictly merit-based system
  • A system based on measured earnings by quantity or quality of production, sales or revenue
  • Geographic location of job.
  • A system that rewards education, training or experience that is directly related to the job description
  • A system that requires travel as a necessary condition of the job

Whatever your pay system, we recommend an in depth review of your payroll and consulting with your payroll provider around any questions or concerns.

Penalty for non-compliance with MEPA will hold the employer liable for twice the amount of unpaid wages owed to affected employees, plus reasonable legal fees and costs.

Further information, a Pay Calculation Tool, and assistance in filing a Civil Rights Complaint can be found at https://www.mass.gov/massachusetts-equal-pay-law


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