United States: New Massachusetts Pay Equity Law Has Something For Everyone

On August 1, 2016, Governor Charlie Baker signed into law a bill that significantly revamps Massachusetts Equal Pay Law.  The focus of the new law remains the same: eliminating the persistent pay gap between male and female employees.  However, the new law provides both employees and employers with some powerful new tools.  

The law makes clear that employers must pay the same wages to male and female employees "for comparable work."  Although the old law contained similar language, the new law explicitly defines "comparable work" as "work that is substantially similar in that it requires substantially similar skill, effort and responsibility and is performed under similar working conditions."  Additionally, the law attempts to prevent employers from playing games with titles: "a job title or job description alone shall not determine comparability."

At the same time, in a nod to employers, the new law expands the number of exceptions from one to six. The old law allowed pay variation between sexes based only on seniority.  The new law also allows pay variation when it is based on a merit system, productivity, geography, legitimate educational, training and experience factors, and travel requirements of the job.  While the new law expands the list of exceptions, it also modifies the original seniority exception, preventing employers from using time spent away from the office on maternal, paternal, family and medical leave to reduce seniority. 

In what the bill's supporters characterize as a "first in the nation provision," the law prohibits employers from inquiring as to a prospective employee's wage or salary history. Employers are only allowed to discuss this information after the compensation has been negotiated and an offer made, or if the prospective employee volunteers the information. 

Another one of the new law's provisions that has garnered nation-wide attention is the requirement that employers allow employees to discuss their salaries or wages with fellow employees.  This law adds the Commonwealth to the list of a dozen states that already have similar laws on their books.   

The new law includes a number of provision that are less sensational but will certainly affect the rights of employees and employers.  For example, the new law extends the time an employee can bring a claim from one year to three.  It also makes explicit what many courts had recognized previously: the time to bring a claim starts running from "when an employee is affected by application of a discriminatory compensation decision or practice, including each time wages are paid."  As with the old law, when employees decide to bring claims, they may do so in any court of competent jurisdiction without first having to file with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination.  And also like the old law, the new one allows employees to recover the amount of their unpaid wages, additional liquidated damages and attorneys' fees.

On the employer side, the new law provides a safe harbor for employers worried about a flood of new litigation. Any employer who, within the three year period leading up to a suit for wage discrimination, both completes a "self-evaluation of its pay practices in good faith" and "can demonstrate that reasonable progress has been made towards eliminating wage differentials based on gender for comparable work," has an affirmative defense to the pay discrimination claim under this law,  as well as "any pay discrimination claim" under the Commonwealth's general anti-discrimination law.  As long as the self-evaluation is reasonable in detail and scope in light of the employer's size, or is consistent with anticipated templates to be issued by the Attorney General, the evaluation may be designed by the employer.       

Although the law does not go into effect until July 1, 2018, there are a number of practices that employers can institute now to prevent problems in the future. 

  1. Review hiring procedures to ensure that managers, recruiters and employment advertisements do not request information about prospective hires previous salaries or wages.
  2. Eliminate any existing policies that sanction employees for discussing their salaries or wages with other employees. 
  3. Undertake a diligent and thorough company-wide self-evaluation of pay practices.  Although the law provides little guidance as to what form a self-evaluation may take, the law anticipates that the Attorney General will issue evaluation templates in the future. Keep a look out for these. In the meantime, the US Department of Labor, especially the Women's Bureau, have resources available.    
  4. Once this this evaluation is completed, don't sit on the results.  The safe harbor requires employers to demonstrate "reasonable progress" toward eliminating wage differentials.  It is important, therefore, that companies implement plans and procedures to eliminate any identified pay inequities. As with everything, document these actions. 
  5. Ensure that time used for seniority rankings include time employees were away from the office for family and medical leave. 
  6. Be aware of regulations and interpretations issued by the Attorney General on this new law. Such regulations, for example, will likely further define the exceptions. The Attorney General's regulations often differ greatly from the statute's plain language.

Published in North of Boston Business Magazine (fall 2016)

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.