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JOB DOC

Massachusetts Pay Equity Law doesn’t prevent a job candidate from disclosing salary history

By Pattie Hunt Sinacole Globe Correspondent 

Q: I was told that prospective employers can no longer ask about my previous compensation. How can I tell them what my pay expectations are if we don’t discuss it? This seems like an odd requirement for employers.

A: Your question is relevant to the Massachusetts Pay Equity Law, which was signed in August by Governor Baker. The main intent of the law is to close the gender pay gap — making it unlawful for employers to pay men and women at different rates for “comparable work.” The law defines that as “work that is substantially similar in that it requires similar skill, effort and experience and is performed under similar working conditions.” Supporters of the pay equity law say women — in general — are still earning about 82 cents for every dollar a man makes.

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Under the new rules — which don’t take effect until July 1 of next year — employers can’t rely on job descriptions or titles alone. As an example, one restaurant employee may hold the title of server while another holds the title of waiter. Both roles involve kitchen-to-table service tasks. Men and women in these jobs should be paid comparably because the responsibilities are similar.

The law also includes a provision prohibiting employers from asking about salary history when they’re interviewing someone for a job. A candidate is, of course, permitted to voluntarily disclose that information. And yes, you can ask about the compensation being offered for a position. Many companies will need to review their employment application forms, as well as how they discuss compensation with a candidate for employment.

Pattie Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group in Hopkinton.