Imagine a job application that asks an applicant to disclose how much she currently makes. If the salary turns out to be significantly less than what the company was prepared to offer, an employer might try to get away with paying a lower wage. That could put the applicant at a disadvantage and lead to a lower salary offer.
In Massachusetts, that kind of scenario could soon be a thing of the past. A new bill signed this week by Republican Governor Charlie Baker promotes equal pay for men and women doing substantially similar work. To promote fair pay, the law prevents employers from requiring applicants to disclose salary history “as a condition of being interviewed, or as a condition of continuing to be considered for an offer of employment.”
That could prove particularly significant for women. Women earn less than men on average. If a woman is paid less than a man for comparable work, and her salary is used by future employers as a baseline to determine what she will be paid in subsequent jobs, that financial shortfall may be more likely to persist over the course of her career.
“Women can be tethered to past salaries in a way that cements lower wages in place,” said Jocelyn Frye, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank. “This bill tries to eliminate that problem and get employers to think about what an equitable salary is for the job based on the value of the job, not what someone made in the past.”