On March 1, 2018, the Massachusetts Attorney General (AG) issued detailed guidance on the amendments to the Massachusetts Equal Pay Act (MEPA), which are set to go into effect on July 1, 2018. The amendments, which were enacted in 2016, will overhaul MEPA, a law that has been in effect for over 70 years, and make it one of the strictest pay equity laws in the nation. Structured primarily in a question-and-answer format, the new guidance answers many of the important questions employers have been asking since the enactment of the amendments.
Some of the key changes in MEPA amendments include
- expanding the prohibition against differences in pay on the basis of gender to “comparable” work requiring substantially similar skill, effort, and responsibility under similar working conditions, thus eliminating the requirement that the job have comparable content;
- providing new yet narrow defenses that allow pay variations based on (i) seniority with the employer; (ii) merit; (iii) quantity or quality of production, sales, or revenue; (iv) geographic location; (v) education, training, or experience, if related to the job at issue; or (vi) travel, if a regular and necessary part of the job;
- eliminating an employer’s use of an employee’s previous wage or salary history as a defense to a claim;
- not allowing employers to ask applicants about their prior salary histories;
- creating a new affirmative defense to a claim under the act if an employer completed a self-evaluation of its pay practices in good faith in the prior three years and can demonstrate that it has made “reasonable progress” toward eliminating gender-based wage differentials; and
- expanding the statute of limitations.