Employers Will Be Prohibited from Asking About Salary History Under New Massachusetts Pay Equity Law

Posted on: Sunday, August 28th, 2016

Seeking to close the gender wage gap, Massachusetts is among the first states to pass a law that prohibits employers from asking for salary history before making an offer of employment.

The purpose of the Act is to encourage equal pay for “comparable work,” defined in the Act as work that “requires substantially similar skill, effort and responsibility and is performed under similar working conditions.”  Unlike Massachusetts’ current law, which requires equal pay for the same work, “comparable work” goes further, rendering job descriptions or titles alone insufficient for determining whether employees are engaging in comparable work.  The new law does, however, provide certain safeguards to employers by allowing for “variations” in wages that are based on education, training, experience, geography, merit systems, or systems that reward seniority.

The new law focuses, in part, on pre-employment communications between the employer or recruiter and the prospective employee and will prohibit employers from requiring the disclosure of salary history “as a condition of being interviewed, or as a condition for continuing to be considered for an offer of employment.”  In practice, employers will be barred from screening candidates on the basis of prior salary history and from contacting prior employers to collect salary history without the prospective employee’s written consent.

Additionally, the Act encourages transparency by protecting employees who discuss their wage rate with other employees and bans employer retaliation against employees who exercise their rights under the new law.

The new Massachusetts law is set to take effect on July 1, 2018.


This advisory is for information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any specific facts or circumstances.

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