January 10, 2017 Jenna Zito

How New Legislation is Fighting for Equal Pay

New legislation passed in Massachusetts will change the hiring game for HR professionals in 2018.  On August 2016, Governor Charlie Baker signed the “Act to Establish Pay Equity,” making it illegal for employers within the state to inquire about job applicant’s previous compensation or ask salary-related questions prior to a job offer.  The law was enacted to end the gender gap while paying men and women equal wages for “comparable work.” The Massachusetts law was the first of its kind at the state level, however municipalities like New York City have already instituted similar legislation, and lawmakers are working to institute it nation-wide.

In NYC, a mandate banning federal agencies from asking job candidates about benefits, wages or other compensation prior to a job offer went into effect on December 4th 2016-signed by Mayor Bill de Blasio through executive action.  Democratic lawmakers on Capitol Hill are also working to make changes on the federal level, introducing a new bill to the House of Representatives titled, Pay Equity for All Act of 2016 (H.R. 6030). The authors of the bill also wrote a letter to President Obama asking him to sign an executive order preventing all employers, not just federal contractors, from asking about salary history.

“Even though employers may not intentionally discriminate against applicants or employees based on gender, race or ethnicity, setting wages based on salary history reinforces the wage gap.  Members of historically disadvantaged groups often start out their careers with unfair and artificially low wages compared to their white male counterparts, allowing any disparities to be compounded from job to job.” 

With Obama’s term ending in less than 2 weeks, it is unlikely he will sign the executive order into law.  However, if H.R. 6030 is signed into law through the legislative process, the U.S. Department of Labor could fine employers up to $10,000 who violate provisions that include asking job applicants about their wage history.  The bill is expected to be re-introduced during the upcoming congressional session starting January 2017.