LawFlash

New Massachusetts Equal Pay Law Takes Effect July 1

June 29, 2018

From reviewing handbooks and policies to training employees on hiring and interviewing, there are several steps that employers in the state should take to ensure compliance with the Massachusetts Equal Pay Act.

The highly anticipated Massachusetts Equal Pay Act (MEPA) becomes law on July 1. As discussed in prior guidance, MEPA is an update to the existing Equal Pay Act, and requires employers to pay men and women equally for equal work or face liability for unpaid wages, liquidated damages, and attorney fees. Employers can use the following list of action items as a tool for compliance with MEPA.

1. Review and revise existing handbooks and policies to:

  • prohibit inquiries into wage or salary history during interviews, other than confirming voluntarily disclosed wage or salary information or inquiring about salary history after making an offer including compensation;
  • prohibit gender-based pay discrimination for comparable work;
  • ensure that employees are not prohibited from discussing their wages; and
  • prohibit retaliation, including any adverse employment action during or after employment, against any individual who exercises protected rights.

2. Review, audit, and revise existing compensation plans and policies to ensure that:

  • seniority systems do not reduce seniority for time spent on leave due to pregnancy-related conditions or statutorily-protected leaves, and are applied in a uniform, gender-neutral manner;
  • merit-based systems utilize legitimate, job-related criteria independent of gender-based factors, and that employees to whom such systems apply are subject to regular evaluations or reviews;
  • systems measuring earnings by quality or quantity of production, sales, or revenue are quantified and applied in a uniform, gender-neutral manner;
  • geographically-based pay differentials correspond with different costs of living or differences in the relevant labor markets; and
  • travel-based pay differentials are used only where regular travel is involved and is necessary to the job.

3. Review and revise job titles and descriptions to take into account the skill, effort, and responsibility required of each position, and the working conditions under which each job is performed.

4. Train employees with hiring, interviewing, HR, payroll, and supervisory responsibilities on MEPA requirements.

5. Document permissible justifications for pay differentials.

6. Consider the potential benefits and risks associated with conducting a self-evaluation, which would need to include the following six steps to comply with MEPA:

  • Gather relevant information on current and former employees and the employer’s compensation policies and practices
  • Identify comparable positions in the employer’s organization
  • Determine whether men and women are paid equally for comparable work
  • Assess whether pay differentials can be explained by one of six permissible factors
  • Develop and implement a plan to remediate any non-permissible pay differentials
  • Make any adjustments necessary to future pay practices to eliminate the recurrence of gender-based pay differentials

The Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office issued a guide to MEPA including answers to FAQs.

Contacts

If you need additional guidance on the new law, have any questions, or would like more information on the issues discussed in this LawFlash, please contact any of the following Morgan Lewis lawyers:

Boston
Peter Mee
Siobhan Mee

New York
David McManus
Douglas Schwarz