New Massachusetts Law Bans Gender Pay Discrimination, Pay Secrecy Policies and Prohibits Asking Prospective Employees About Salary History

The Massachusetts Legislature recently enacted a bill that will go into effect in July of 2018 titled “An Act to Establish Pay Equity”, a sweeping new law aimed at ensuring equal pay for comparable work for all Massachusetts employees.   The Act has several important ramifications for employers.

First, the new law bans pay discrimination for comparable work based on gender.  The Federal Equal Pay Act, part of the Civil Rights Act, already prohibits gender-based discrimination for the “same job”.  The new Massachusetts law uses the broader term “comparable work”, which is aimed at going beyond mere job titles and descriptions to ensure that the duties actually being performed by employees are used to determine comparability.  It is important to note that under the new law, employers are allowed to consider qualifications like experience, training, education and geographic location when determining salaries.

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Second, in order to help combat such discrimination, the bill explicitly prohibits “pay secrecy” policies and instead states that employers must allow employees to freely discuss their salaries with coworkers in order to facilitate transparency and reduce the risk of gender-based pay discrepancies.  The bill does not, however, require that an employer disclose an employee’s wage to another employee or a third party.

Third, the law prohibits employers from asking prospective employees about their past salary history.  The theory behind this component of the law is that women have been locked in a cycle of lower pay structures and that providing salary history perpetuates such a cycle.  By not allowing previous salary history to be a factor in an employer’s offer terms, it is thought that a more level playing field based on experience and qualifications will emerge.  However, it is important to note that job applicants are still free to volunteer their previous pay as part of salary negotiations if they so wish.

Employers found in violation of the new law will face costly non-compliance penalties, including claims for unpaid wages, liquid damages for 100% of the amount of unpaid wages, plus the employee’s attorneys’ fees and costs.

Finally, the law provides an important defense tool for employers.  Employers may conduct good faith “self-evaluations” of their pay practices.  If the Employer conducts such an evaluation and can show that they have made “reasonable progress” towards eliminating gender-based wage discrepancies, the employer will be entitled to an affirmative defense for a period of three years after the completion of the self-evaluation.

In anticipation of the Act going into effect on July 1, 2018, in the coming year, the Attorney General’s Office will likely issue regulations that will interpret the new law and provide direction for employers and employees.

Employers are encouraged to review their hiring practices and employment law policies in light of the new law. The employment law attorneys at Baker, Braverman & Barbadoro, P.C. are available to assist you in creating compliant employee policies. Call and ask to speak with one of our employment lawyers today to review your policies. – Theresa Koppanati.

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Two Items Every College Aged Child Should Not Leave Home Without

As parents we are used to taking care of our children’s medical and financial needs, this does not usually end when our children go off to college or ventures off into the world on their own. However what most parents do not realize, once their child turns eighteen, they are not legally entitled to make any medical or financial decisions on their child’s behalf. Turning 18 is a milestone birthday for many people; it is the year a child becomes a legal adult. Upon turning 18, the law assumes that the child has accumulated enough knowledge to make legal decisions on their own behalf. These include, but may not be limited to, entering into contracts and making healthcare decisions. The reality is that many eighteen year olds are unprepared for the responsibility that these type of decisions bring. This presents a challenge as a parent; legally the parent can no longer make decisions for their children, yet children often turn to their parents for assistance and guidance in making decisions. This is where a health care proxy and power of attorney can become invaluable tools.

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A health care proxy is a document that gives someone else the power to make health care decisions on your behalf. Often a trusted family member or friend is chosen as that person. This person is known as the health care agent. A health care agent only has the power to make health care decisions when someone is incapacitated and cannot make decisions for themselves. This document can also include a HIPAA authorization that allows the release of medical records to the health care agent. If you were to receive a call from your child’s friend that your son or daughter had been in an accident and taken to the hospital, the heath care proxy will allow you to jump into action to make decisions regarding your child’s treatment. Without it, expect to be rebuffed by your child’s medical providers who are legally unable to provide you with information regarding your child’s condition or treatment.

A power of attorney gives someone else the power to make financial decisions on your behalf. Much like a health care proxy, the power of attorney gives the designated agent the power to make financial decisions, but unlike the health care proxy, a power of attorney can be valid when signed; it is not contingent on incapacity. A power of attorney will allow you to assist your child with their banking or to speak on their behalf to their car insurance company or their landlord.

With children away from home at college, these can be powerful time saving tools and can help avoid unnecessary legal mishaps that young adults may unwittingly get themselves into.

The estate planning attorneys at Baker, Braverman & Barbadoro, P.C. can speak with your family and draft the estate plan that fits your needs and goals, including health care proxies and powers of attorney for young adults. – Elizabeth A. Caruso.

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