Massachusetts’s revised Equal Pay Act comes into effect July 1, 2018, and will introduce sweeping changes across the workforce, including changes to how employment agencies operate. Employment agencies should pay close attention to this act and how it will impact business.
1. The Definition of Comparable Work is Important
Employers have to pay both men and women comparably for comparable work under the Equal Pay Act. This means that jobs for which there is a substantially similar skill set, effort, and responsibility, performed under similar working conditions, can be considered comparable even if the actual job titles differ.
For employment agencies, this matters when looking at resumes and communicating with potential hires. People seeking jobs may adjust their resumes and job history/experience to draw on comparisons with other, higher paying roles that have some skills, effort, conditions, or responsibilities in common.
2. Be Aware of Salary History Prohibition
The Equal Pay Act makes it illegal to ask a candidate for his or her salary history unless the employer has already extended a job offer and a compensation package.
For employment agencies, this entails not only refraining from asking about salary during interviews, but also removing any salary history questions from job application paperwork, and instructing recruiters to stay away from the subject.
3. The Penalties are Real
Noncompliance with the Equal Pay Act is costly. Employees, and the Massachusetts Attorney General, can sue employers who are noncompliant. Class action lawsuits are a possibility. It is well worth ensuring that employment practices are compliant before this potentially devastating situation can arise.
4. The Act Improves Workplaces
Not only are there ways to prepare, these methods are encouraged by the Equal Pay Act. If an employer conducts a self-evaluation of its pay practices, and moves toward fixing any pay gaps, it makes the workplace better. It can also work as an affirmative defense in the event of a lawsuit, if it takes place within three years prior to the suit’s initiation.
5. Timing Matters
Because the timing of a self-evaluation matters, the simple solution is to prepare and complete a self-evaluation of pay practices at the outset of the law coming into effect, and every three years following.
Employment agencies and search firms should choose to work only with employers who comply with the law and conduct regular self-evaluations.