Equal Pay / Gender Pay Equality

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Both federal and Massachusetts law prohibit pay discrimination based on a worker’s membership in a protected category, including sex, race, disability, and other classifications. Violations of gender pay equality laws may be obvious, but, more often, they are subtle and leave you wondering about whether you have a claim. In addition, with recent amendments to Massachusetts laws on equal pay, employers may be uncertain about their obligations.

You do have rights if your employer pays you differently for doing the same job as other personnel. Gender pay inequality is illegal and you may be able to recover compensation, including back pay, future pay, attorneys’ fees, and other damages. It is important to retain solid representation to enforce your rights, so please contact Rodman Employment Law to set up a consultation with one of our experienced employment attorneys. You may also find it useful to review some general information about the history of equal pay laws, the specifics on the new Massachusetts statute, and what to do if you are experiencing discrimination in violation of gender pay equality.

History of Equal Pay and Gender Pay Equality in Massachusetts

Equal pay initiatives are not new in Massachusetts. In fact, Massachusetts was the first state in the nation to adopt an equal pay law in 1945, targeted to end a long-time pattern of unfair pay for women in the workplace. Among many other provisions, the law made it illegal for employers to ask about salary history when considering job candidates.

Statistics demonstrate that much work is still needed to level the playing field. According to the Attorney General’s Office, women on average earn only 84.3 percent of what men earn based upon the same hours and comparable occupations. The pay gap for women of color is even greater. In response to the disparity, Massachusetts recently updated its equal pay statute to establish stronger measures on unlawful wage discrimination.

Statutes and Legal Precedent on Unequal Pay

 State Law:  The newly amended Massachusetts Equal Pay Act, effective July 1, 2018, is intended to close the pay gap by accomplishing several objectives:

  • Providing more clarity on what acts constitute wage discrimination on account of gender;
  • Adding new protections for workers who experience inequitable treatment in wage payment;
  • Ensuring pay transparency;
  • Restricting discussions on salary history as a basis for hiring;
  • Describing the limited circumstances under which employers are allowed to pay employees differently for comparable work.

Federal Law: The Equal Pay Act of 1963 was passed as an amendment to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, and is aimed at eliminating wage disparity based sex. It provides that employers cannot pay a lower wage to employees of one gender as compared to workers of the other gender, when the individuals are performing equal work. 

Take Action if Your Equal Pay Rights are Being Violated

 To better understand your rights to equal pay under Massachusetts and federal law, it is helpful to review some common indicators that your employer is violating the law:

  • Your employer pays you less than similarly situated employees of the opposite gender, offering excuses that do not constitute a valid reason for the difference in pay.
  • Your employer establishes a salary policy that applies universally to positions that are predominantly held by workers of a certain gender. The wage is considerably lower than what is paid to positions predominantly held by employees of the opposite gender.
  • Your employer implements a gender-neutral compensation policy or practice that has a disproportionate effect on employees of one gender, and which cannot be justified according to business necessity.

If any of these scenarios seem familiar or you believe you are the target of other forms of gender-based wage discrimination, you should consult with an attorney regarding your experiences. Depending on the circumstances, it may be appropriate to file a formal claim with the appropriate state and federal agencies for violations of equal pay laws: the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Note that in Massachusetts you must initiate a claim by filing with one of these two agencies within 300 days from the date you believe you were discriminated against. It is critical to confer with an experienced lawyer about time considerations. Additional deadlines may apply to your case, and you do not want your claim to be barred by relevant statutes of limitations.

Equal Pay / Gender Pay Equality Links & Resources

Equal Pay/Compensation Discrimination – Introduction to the topic of equal pay from the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Facts About Equal Pay and Compensation Discrimination – Information from the EEOC on the protections provided to workers and the laws which provide those protections.

The Equal Pay Act of 1963 – Original text, provided by the EEOC, from the act which mandates equality in compensation.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – Original text, provided by the EEOC, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. This provides similar protections to equal compensation for women as the Equal Pay Act of 1963.

Title 29 Subtitle B Chapter XIV Part 1604 – The law which provides guidelines on discrimination because of sex.

Equal Pay and Pay Transparency Protections – An interactive map from the Department of Labor which shows the federal and state laws that mandate equal pay.

Breaking Down the Gender Wage Gap – Helpful packet of information from the Department of Labor Women’s Bureau which puts the wage gap in context and describes how it has changed over time.

Issue Brief: Women’s Earning and the Wage Gap – Publication from the Department of Labor Women’s Bureau about equal pay.

A Guide to Women’s Equal Pay Rights – Pamphlet with information on rights and resources for women from the Department of Labor Women’s Bureau.

Women Can’t Have Prior Salaries Used Against Them, Court Says In Equal Pay Case – NPR article about a lawsuit in California which resulted in previous pay not being allowable as a reason for not complying with equal pay.

On Equal Pay Day, how far have we come? – An article from NBC News which details the progress made on achieving equal pay.

Overview of the Massachusetts Equal Pay Law – A resource from the Massachusetts state government which details the updated Massachusetts Equal Pay Act (MEPA) which will become law on July 1, 2018.

Equal Pay Act Guidance – A publication from the Office of the Attorney General which provides an overview of the updated law and answers frequently asked questions about said law.

Equal Pay for All – Website about equal pay maintained by the Massachusetts State Treasurer and Receiver General.

Does new aw mean real pay equity for women? Not Quite  – Article from the Boston Globe about the impact of the new Massachusetts Equal Pay Act.



  • In the 2017 fiscal year, 146 (31.1%) of the charges received by the EEOC in Massachusetts related to discrimination based on sex.[1]
  • As of 2016, women earned 81.9% of the wage of a man completing comparable work.[2]
  • In Massachusetts, women earn 82 cents on the dollar compared to male workers.[3]
  • As of 2016, median pay for full-time, year-round men in Massachusetts was $62,868 and the median pay for full-time, year-round women in Massachusetts was $51,666.
  • The wage gap is not predicted to go away in Massachusetts until 2058.[5]
  • The wage gap in Massachusetts gets worse when race is considered. When compared to white, non-Hispanic men doing equivalent work[6]:
    • Asian women earn 80 cents per dollar.
    • Native women earn 63 cents per dollar.
    • African-American women earn 61 cents per dollar.
    • Latina women earn 50 cents per dollar.
  • Nationally, women earn the following amount on the dollar earned by men for the listed professions[7]:
    • 67 cents in Natural Resources, Construction, and Maintenance.
    • 71 cents in Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officers.
    • 73 cents in Production and Transportation.
    • 74 cents in Professional and Related.
    • 75 cents in Management, Business and Financial.
    • 79 cents in Services.
    • 79 cents in Education, Training and Library.
    • 81 cents in Sales and Office Related.
    • 81 cents in Architecture and Engineering.
    • 82 cents in Computer and Mathematical.
    • 88 cents in Community and Social Service.
    • 91 cents in Bailiffs, Correctional Officers and Jailers.
    • 97 cents in Food Preparation and Serving Workers, Fast Food.
    • 99 cents in Maids and Housekeeping Cleaners.

[1] https://www1.eeoc.gov/eeoc/statistics/enforcement/charges_by_state.cfm#centercol

[2] https://www.dol.gov/wb/stats/NEWSTATS/facts/earn_earnings_ratio.htm#four

[3] http://equalpayma.com/en/about

[4] http://equalpayma.com/sites/default/files/field/image/WageGapFactSheet%20Final%20OEE%20Logo.pdf

[5] Ibid.

[6] http://cdn.equalpayma.com/sites/default/files/field/image/EqualPay_Infographic.pdf

[7] https://www.dol.gov/wb/images/EqualPay_infographic.pdf

Discuss Your Right to Equal Pay with a Dedicated Massachusetts Attorney

 With the help of an experienced attorney, you can better understand your rights under federal and Massachusetts equal pay and gender equality laws. You can also rely on a skilled lawyer to take action with respect to your options for legal recourse, including filing a complaint with the proper agencies or in court.

If you are facing questions about equal pay and want to know more about potential legal remedies, please contact the Boston-based employment law firm of Rodman Employment Law at (617) 820- 5250. We can schedule a consultation to discuss the details of your case.


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