By Bob Katzen

The new law to strengthen the Bay State’s pay equity law by closing the wage gap between men and women doing the same job went into effect at the beginning of July. The new law, approved by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Baker almost two years ago in August 2016, requires that women be paid equal pay for comparable work unless the variation is based upon mitigating factors including seniority, a system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production, sales or revenue and education, training or experience.

The new law establishes pay transparency, prohibits screening of prospective employees based on salary history, requires fairness in hiring practices and increases fines for violations. Other provisions prohibit employers from reducing salaries in order to comply with the new law and from preventing employees from talking about their salaries.

Supporters note that women comprise 50 percent of the workforce yet make only 80 cents for every dollar earned by men.

“I am pleased now that the law is fully in effect and that employers in Massachusetts can no longer ask employees about salary history — the first such ban of its kind in the United States — and that companies are now incentivized to evaluate their salary structure and fix issues prior to facing a lawsuit,” said House sponsor Rep. Jay Livingstone (D-Boston). “I am hopeful that the gender wage gap will close at a much faster rate so that people will earn what they deserve.”

“We are very happy that many companies are responding to the law by auditing their pay policies and adjusting pay scales to ensure equity,” said Senate sponsor Sen. Pat Jehlen (D-Somerville). “And the ban on asking for pay history is now being adopted in other states. The next step is to raise the pay of skilled but underpaid workers in traditionally ‘women’s’ jobs, like caring for children, elders and people with disabilities, as well as tipped workers.”

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