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Preparing for the New Massachusetts Equal Pay Law, Part II: Which Policies to Revise in Light of the Upcoming Effective Date

Author: Rachel Reingold Mandel (Boston)

Published Date: October 30, 2017

As we get closer to the July 1, 2018 implementation date for the Massachusetts Equal Pay Act (MEPA), it is time to focus in earnest on practical workplace considerations for affected employers. Although MEPA does not dictate what specific language employment policies must include, employers should align their internal policies and practices with the law’s detailed requirements. Employment policies that may require revision or amendment in order to comply with the provisions of MEPA cover not only compensation, but also hiring practices, interview procedures, commissions, merit-based bonuses, and confidentiality. Employers also should review and update their written employment applications, offer letters, onboarding materials, and job descriptions to ensure compliance with MEPA. These documents may include questions about salary history, explain company practices with regard to making compensation decisions, or otherwise touch on areas covered by MEPA. 

What Should Employers Watch For?

Employment policies that may be seemingly innocuous can include language that is problematic under MEPA. For example, in order to comply with the MEPA ban on inquiring about salary history, employers may need to revise hiring policies and interview procedures that reference questions about current or previous pay.  Employers will also need to review and update policies or procedures that set salary thresholds for jobs. Employers likely need to review and adjust policies that cover pay practices (including compensation, bonus, and commission policies) to comply with MEPA’s provisions regarding permissible objective bases for differences in pay (such as, seniority and certain types of differentiating details of the job). 

In order to comply with MEPA’s provisions regarding employees’ rights to talk about their own (and other employees’) wages, it is also important to review confidentiality and discipline policies that address the discussion of work-related information. Employers already may have updated these policies to comply with provisions of the National Labor Relations Act regarding workplace communication, but this is a good time to take another look.

What About New Employee Documents?

Like employment policies, seemingly straightforward new employee documents can run afoul of MEPA’s requirements. Applications that seek current or historical salary information will need to be revamped to meet MEPA’s requirements. Similarly, offer letters and onboarding materials that discuss compensation and eligibility for salary increases may need revision. Job descriptions that contain salary bands or criteria for salary changes should also be carefully examined for MEPA compliance and best practices to protect employers.

Next Steps

We recommend that employers take time between now and the July 1, 2018 MEPA implementation date to review their policies, procedures, and other relevant documents and make any necessary revisions to come into compliance with the law’s provisions. Every employer’s set of policies is unique, so there is no one-size-fits-all guidance on this issue, but this is a good time to take stock of what is currently in place and what may need revision.

For more detailed information on other steps your company can take to prepare for the implementation of the amended Massachusetts Equal Pay Law, join us for our upcoming webinar, “Preparing for the Massachusetts Equal Pay Law, Part III: Training and Best Practices,” Katherine G. Rigby (shareholder, Boston) on Wednesday, November 1, 2017, at 2:00 p.m. Eastern. Our speaker will discuss training and other best practices that employers can implement in preparation for the new law.

Rachel Reingold Mandel  (Boston)

Rachel Reingold Mandel
Ms. Mandel is a shareholder in the Boston office. She focuses her practice on employment litigation, and represents employers in a broad range of employment matters before state and federal courts and administrative agencies in both Massachusetts and Connecticut. Ms. Mandel regularly practices before the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD), the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO), and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).Ms. Mandel...