Massachusetts Equal Pay Act Takes Effect on July 1, 2018

The Massachusetts Equal Pay Act, known as MEPA, is set to go into effect on July 1, 2018 and will apply to employers across Massachusetts, in Pittsfield, Springfield, Worcester, Lowell, Fall River, New Bedford, and the Cape.  MEPA's main provisions are designed to strengthen prohibitions against gender-based pay discrimination.  Those provisions are discussed below. 

Employers should strongly consider conducting a self-audit relative to their payment practices immediately.  Doing so serves four beneficial purposes:  (1) demonstrates to the Attorney General's office that you pay attention and take this new act seriously, (2) identifies risk areas relative to potential gender-based pay discrepancies, (3) allows you to triage that risk and come up a gameplan to mitigate, and (4) provides employers with a helpful defense if they are ever accused of violating the law.  If you'd like to learn more, set up a free consultation today.

MEPA makes it illegal for an employer to pay different rates to workers of different genders for "comparable work."  Under MEPA, "comparable work" is not limited to jobs with the same duties or titles.  Instead, it is defined more broadly as "work that is substantially similar in that it requires substantially similar skill, effort, and responsibility and is performed under similar working conditions."  Generally speaking, under MEPA, employees of different genders, performing "comparable work" cannot be paid at lower rates.   

MEPA does provide defenses to employers who pay genders differently, including those who pay differently based on a bona fide seniority system, a bona fide merit system, a bona fide system that measures earnings by quantity/quality of production or sales, geographic location, or based upon education/training/experience.

MEPA also provides a "self-evaluation" defense for employers.  Under that defense, employers who complete a good-faith evaluation of their pay practices within 3 years of a claim, and can show that they've made progress toward elimination gender-based pay disparity, have an affirmative defense to a MEPA claim.

Employers in Pittsfield, Springfield, Worcester, Lowell, Fall River, New Bedford, and the Cape should consider auditing their practices immediately to identify and instances of gender-based pay disparities and determine if they are in violation of MEPA.  Employees in those locations who believe they are being paid differently for comparable work than workers of different gender should consult with an employment attorney to learn more.