(WWLP) – The Massachusetts Senate passed legislation Thursday to address pay inequities, which disproportionately affect women and people of color. This bill aims to fix these inequities by giving employees salary information, including when they’re seeking jobs and getting promotions, and by giving the state new data tools to track employment.
“This is simple: everyone deserves equal pay for equal work, regardless of your gender, race, ethnicity, or background,” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland), who sponsored previous pay equity legislation that was enacted into law in 2016. “It is far too common for women and people of color to be paid less than their coworkers nationwide, and we are not immune to this discrepancy here. By passing this bill, the Senate stands united behind every worker—and with every business—in Massachusetts in our steadfast commitment to the fundamental principle that every person has the right to be treated and compensated fairly in the workplace.”
S.2468, also known as the Frances Perkins Workplace Equity Act, gives job seekers more power by requiring employers with 25 or more employees to list salary ranges in job postings. Additionally, employers must provide salary ranges to employees offered promotions or transfers, as well as to current employees if they ask.
“I am proud that our body took this important step to clarify pay ranges in the workplace while helping to identify disparities across demographic groups,” said Senator Adam Gomez (D- Springfield). “This bill will go a long way toward assisting employers and those entering the job market to set reasonable expectations and produce results.”
When signed into law by the Governor, the legislation will help Massachusetts track pay discrepancies. Employers with 100 or more employees have to file annual employment data reports with the state, including demographics and salaries.
Further, the bill requires the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development to track compensation data and file an annual report on equal pay progress.
According to a news release from MassSenate, it’s another step forward for pay equity in a state with a long history. Having passed pay equity legislation in 1945, Massachusetts is the first state in the nation to do so. An Act to Establish Pay Equity was passed by the legislature in 2016, prohibiting employers from asking prospective employees about their salary history and giving workers the right to talk about their salaries. It was signed by the governor later that year.
In Massachusetts, women who work full-time make 85.7 cents for every dollar men make, according to a report by the National Women’s Law Center. It’s even worse for women of color: Black women make 58.1 cents, Hispanic women make 53 cents, Native American women make 66 cents, and Asian women make 91 cents.
The legislation would direct the Attorney General to start an awareness campaign about the rights it guarantees employees. In addition, it gives the Attorney General new authority to enforce the law.
There’s a lot of support from businesses and industry advocates for salary transparency.
“The Wage Equity Now coalition worked hard for years to achieve passage of this bill,” stated former Lieutenant Governor Evelyn Murphy, the founder of the WAGE (Women Are Getting Even) Project Inc. “The transparency in this bill provides workers with knowledge that they are paid fairly and have opportunities to advance. That’s good for the Massachusetts economy and especially good for workers of color and women. The most powerful incentive to building the Massachusetts workforce is to provide workers with the knowledge that they are paid fairly and have opportunities to advance. This law advances that for all workers.”
“Associated Industries of Massachusetts and its 3,400 members thank the Senate for passing a bill that will make the Commonwealth a leader in wage equity and transparency,” said Brooke Thomson, President of Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM). “AIM is proud to have worked with the Legislature on a bill encouraging employers to create fair compensation systems that will give them a leg up in the competitive market for skilled employees. We look forward to continuing our collaboration with lawmakers to ensure that this bill reaches Governor Maura Healey’s desk as soon as possible.”
“We are grateful for the leadership of Senate President Spilka and Senators Jehlen and Feeney to pass this historic legislation,” said Keith A. Mahoney, Vice President of Communications and Public Affairs at the Boston Foundation (TBF), the convener of the Wage Equity Now Coalition. “TBF’s commitment is to equity and closing opportunity gaps, and this is a bold step and long overdue step that enhances transparency and the increases our ability to attract talent and improve our Commonwealth’s competitiveness.”
“The Massachusetts AFL-CIO applauds every effort to provide new tools for workers to obtain the wages and benefits they deserve,” said Chrissy Lynch, newly elected President of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO. “Labor unions have been at the forefront of the fight for wage equity and few people know better than rank and file trade unionists how powerful the full knowledge of pay, benefits, rights, and protections can be. This bill will provide that knowledge to employees across the state. Salary and wage transparency are necessary for a just economy, and we look forward to continuing our work with legislators to pursue economic justice in Massachusetts.”
After passing the House of Representatives, the two branches will reconcile the differences before sending it to the Governor.