Friday, January 29, 2016

One Step Closer to Closing the Wage Gap!

Thursday, January 28th, the Massachusetts Senate unanimously passed a landmark pay equity bill
sponsored by Senator Karen Spilka (D-Ashland) and Senator Patricia Jehlen (D-Somerville). 
While Massachusetts boasted the nation’s first pay equity law over 70 years ago, MA women
continue to make, on average, 82 cents to every dollar made by men.  While this percentage is
slightly higher than the national average of 79 cents, MA women lost $11,152 to the wage gap in
2014 according to the American Association of University Women
pay-gap/GgRg7bLVbAWMKqCpae3trK/story.html).  Women of color are even worse off, with
Black women making 64 cents and Hispanic women 54 cents to every white man’s dollar
(  At-Large Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu
illuminated the devastating effects of pay inequality to the Dorchester Reporter.  Citing the
Boston Redevelopment Authority’s 2015 report, Councilor Wu noted that women-headed
households make up 35.5% of family households in Boston, yet 64.3% of households living in
poverty ( 
The pay equity bill makes three key changes to current business practices.  First, employers may
no longer ask applicants to disclose their salaries from previous jobs, a tactic which
disadvantages women as they tend to make less than men and wrongly implies a lower quality of
work in a previous position.  Secondly, the bill intentionally defines “comparable work” as work
“similar in content” that requires “similar skill, effort and responsibility and is performed under
similar working conditions” (
senate).  Thirdly, employees may discuss their salaries without fear of termination and/or
retaliation from their employer if they file a complaint regarding pay inequity. 
In combination with greater transparency and harsher penalties for discrimination on the basis of
gender, pay equity advocates appear optimistic about this bill. “This legislation takes important
steps to encourage awareness, facilitate conversation, and ultimately, ensure equality,” said State
Treasurer Deb Goldberg.  “Equal pay is not a partisan issue, nor solely a women’s issue.  It is a
family issue, and it affects the economic health and well-being of our entire state”
treasurer-goldberg-support-reactions/).  Sponsor Senator Spilka remarked, “When women thrive,
businesses, communities and the Commonwealth as a whole thrive”
Chairwoman Spilka and Sen. Jehlen pushed for this bill with the strong backing of women’s-
centered organizations committed to ending income disparities, including the Equal Pay
Coalition initiated by Massachusetts Chapter of the National Organization for Women (Mass
NOW), the Women’s Bar Association (WBA), the Mass Commission on the Status of Women
(MCSW) and the Massachusetts Employment Lawyers Association.  The bill now moves to the House of Representatives under the sponsorship of Rep. Jay Livingstone (D-Boston) and Rep. Ellen Story (D-Amherst).