MassLive, 7/23/16

Massachusetts lawmakers on Saturday unanimously approved legislation supporters say will close a gender wage gap and bring parity to what men and women are paid for work.

Female workers in Massachusetts are paid an average of 82 percent of what their male counterparts make, supporters of the legislation say.

The legislation, which updates and clarifies current equal pay laws, now heads to Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk. The state House voted 151 to 0, while the state Senate voted 40 to 0.

“We celebrate today’s legislative action for one very simple reason: closing the wage gap is good for business and good for the economy,” Jesse Mermell, president of the Alliance for Business Leadership, a left-leaning pro-business group that pushed for the legislation, said in a statement.

“Equal pay will make it easier for companies in Massachusetts to attract and retain top talent. It will lift up women and families, cutting the number of working women living in poverty in our state nearly in half. And, of course, it is just plain fair,” she said.

According to a joint release from both the House and Senate earlier this week, the bill does allow pay variations “if the difference is based on a bona fide merit system, seniority, a system that measures earnings based on production or sales or revenue, differences based on geographic location or education, training or experience reasonably related to the particular job.”

The release added:

The bill also protects employees from discrimination during the hiring process by preventing employers from requesting salary history in hiring, a measure designed to end the self-perpetuating cycle of wage disparity. Massachusetts would be the first state in the nation to adopt such a provision. However, prospective employees would not be barred from voluntarily disclosing their past salaries. It also protects employees from any repercussions of discussing their current pay with their co-workers.

The legislation is part of a six high-profile bills lawmakers are seeking to send to the governor’s desk before they adjourn formal sessions for the rest of the year.

If the governor signs it, the legislation takes effect on July 1, 2018.