The law was intended to equalize pay for women, who categorically earn around 80% of men’s salaries for similar positions. Since employers tend to base salary offers on candidates’ prior salaries, basing women’s salaries on their previous salaries keeps them in the cycle of earning less than their male counterparts. The Massachusetts law set out to break this cycle.
Now, employers must address the salary issue differently, by either offering a salary, or asking the candidate about their salary expectations. No more basing an offer on a previous job’s salary.
The Massachusetts law went even further, forbidding employers from prohibiting their workers to discuss salaries among themselves. Effectively, this meant that employees wouldn’t know if they were getting paid more or less than a counterpart. By removing the “don’t discuss salaries” clause from employee contracts, Massachusetts took away a long-held practice which forced employees to be hush-hush about their salaries, lest they be in breach of contract. Now, the discussion is open, leading to higher transparency on the part of employers, for female and male employees alike.
In a similar vein, last year California enacted a law requiring employers to have a system in place which can prove equal pay for “substantially similar” jobs. While all of these laws are touted as victories for female workers, their legal effects can translate into lawsuits against employers. Therefore, employers need to be fully informed about the new laws. They will need to know specifically about what to say, what not to say, and how to track male and female salaries for comparison’s sake. Even if discrimination might be hard to prove, it behooves all employers to know what’s at stake in order to avoid the hassles, and perhaps ill-repute, of an employee or job candidate lawsuit.
Gender-equal pay can be a hot topic. Bringing it home, even though New York State doesn’t yet have these particular laws on the books, it’s probably only a matter of time. So, be sure to stay updated regarding the legalities of employer-employee salary discussions.