Massachusetts law prohibits employers from asking about applicants’ salaries

Massachusetts law prohibits employers from asking about applicants’ salaries

Massachusetts has enacted the nation’s first law prohibiting employers from asking about applicants’ salaries before making employment offers.

The new state law, which Republican Gov. Charlie Baker signed on Aug. 1, will require employers to offer a compensation figure upfront, rather than relying upon what the applicant made at a previous position. The requirements will not go into effect until July 1, 2018. Job applicants will not be compelled to disclose past or current salary or wages, but can still volunteer past salary information.

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The first-of-its-kind bipartisan law, S. 2119, was heralded by supporters as another avenue to strengthen equal pay laws. The law’s proponents said banning pre-offer wage disclosures addressed the subtle factors that can affect compensation decisions. As well, supporters said that using salary history as a means of determining how much a potential hire could be paid was unfair to women, arguing that it allowed a continuation of a pattern that statistically paid them less.

Another provision of the law requires that women receive pay equal to that of men in the same position, as well as men who perform work “comparable” to them. The Massachusetts law incorporates a wider standard than many other state equal pay acts. Other recently passed state equal pay laws, such as California’s 2015 equal pay measure, likely will depend on the courts to practically define “comparable” worth in the workplace.

Finally, the new Massachusetts law also addresses salary transparency. Employers will not be allowed to prohibit employees from informing others how much they are compensated. Supporters argued that transparency for wages would better identify gender pay disparities.

The bill passed the state legislature unanimously and had the support of several business organizations, including the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce.

Similar attempts at introducing novel procedures to address equal pay have inspired copy-cat legislation in other state legislatures. Several states this year attempted to pass some form of equal pay legislation but the Massachusetts action is the first one to become law.

Author: Victor Janulaitis

M. Victor Janulaitis is the CEO of Janco Associates. He has taught at the USC Graduate School of Business, been a guest lecturer at the UCLA’s Anderson School of Business, a Graduate School at Harvard University, and several other universities in various programs.