Vote for Equal Pay Bill Unanimous Once Again

The law aims to close the wage gap in Massachusetts.

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The Massachusetts Legislature really, really wants to pass this pay equity bill.

After yesterday’s vote in the House, both chambers have now voted unanimously in favor of bills aimed at making salaries for men and women equal for equal work. The Senate passed its version of the bill in January.

The legislation has been in the works in one form or another since 1998, and advocates say it would be the nation’s strongest when it comes to equal pay.

“Pay equity gets at the heart of who we are as Americans,” House Speaker Robert DeLeo said in a statement Thursday. “I want to offer my sincerest thanks to the legislators who have raised their voices and tenaciously pursued this issue for decades. Your work will shape a better and more just future for women in the Commonwealth.”

A conference committee still needs to hammer out differences between the bills before it heads to the desk of Gov. Charlie Baker, who the State House News Service reports has urged lawmakers to wrap up work on the law by the end of the month.

The bill that cleared the House Thursday would:

  • Force employers to let their employees talk with one another about their salaries.
  • Prevent employers from asking for a job applicant’s pay history.
  • Shield companies from lawsuits for three years if they run self-evaluations and work to correct wage gaps on their own.
  • Set more specific guidelines on how to define whether someone is being paid the same amount of money for the same work: considering factors such as seniority, work performance, education, or training.

Read the full text on the state Legislature’s website.

That last part on defining equal work appeals to business groups that had been reluctant to support the Senate’s version, Politico reports.

Advocacy groups, meanwhile, were cheering yesterday’s news.

“Today is a historic day in Massachusetts and I would like to thank our legislative leaders in both the House and the Senate for recognizing the importance of working towards closing the gender wage gap,” says Victoria Budson, chair of the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women, in a statement. “This bill supports working families, communities, and companies by ensuring equal pay for women and men. It will make Massachusetts more competitive in a global marketplace.”

Women in the state make an estimated 82 cents on the dollar compared to their male counterparts, but the discrepancy is bigger for women of color specifically. That figure is 61 cents for black women, and 50 cents for Latinas, according to a 2014 study from the National Women’s Law Center.

Want to use a handy little online tool to find out just how underpaid you are? Treasurer Deb Goldberg has you covered.