Alliance leader and board member Kip Hollister, Founder & CEO of Hollister Staffing, was featured in an article on MassLive.com July 21st for her support of the pay equity bill S.983 and H.1733. Read more below, or see the original article by Shira Schoenberg here.
Several of Massachusetts’ top elected officials – and more than 100 state lawmakers – are backing a “pay equity” bill that aims to ensure that women are paid the same as men for comparable work.
State Sen. Karen Spilka, D-Ashland, who sponsored the bill in the state Senate, said women working full time in Massachusetts earn 81 cents for every dollar men earn, according to a study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. “This is in a state that we consider ourselves a leader in equality, a leader in justice,” Spilka said at a Statehouse rally on Tuesday. “Where is the equality here and where is the justice?”
Attorney General Maura Healey, Treasurer Deborah Goldberg and Auditor Suzanne Bump, all Democrats, are all backing the bill, arguing that it is a matter of fairness and economic growth.
“It is not…a women’s issue, and it is not even just a family issue,” Goldberg said. “It is an economic issue for Massachusetts and this country.”
Massachusetts passed a law requiring men and women be paid the same amount for comparable work in 1945, becoming the first state to do so. But the law has been limited by court rulings on what defines “comparable work,” and statistics of median annual earnings have shown that women working full time in Massachusetts still earn less than men. The pay gap is highest among black and Latino women.
The bill, introduced as S.983 and H.1733, would prohibit companies from maintaining wage confidentiality policies or disciplining employees for discussing their salaries. It would lengthen the time an employee has to bring a pay discrimination suit from one to three years and allow for the awarding of attorneys’ fees. It would clarify that analysis of “comparable” work must be based on skill, effort, responsibility and working conditions. It would allow an employer to defend itself against gender discrimination claims if the company conducts a self-evaluation of workplace job classifications and wage rates.
The bill would require companies to post a minimum salary in job ads and pay any hire at least that amount and would make it illegal for an employer to use salary history in hiring.
Carole Pelchat, legislative director of the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, said she previously worked for the state, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and at a hospital. In those jobs, she said, it was “public knowledge” what people were earning. She said allowing people to discuss their wages is a step toward eliminating gender-based wage disparities. She said those disparities carry through a person’s life when a salary history becomes part of hiring decisions, and salaries are used to calculate Social Security retirement benefits.
“It’s never ending,” Pelchat said.
Kip Hollister, founder and CEO of Hollister Staffing in Boston, said there needs to be a cultural shift as women learn to promote their own value in the workforce. As she became involved in the issue of equal pay, Hollister said she made changes after realizing that at her company she was paying more to male employees who asked for a raise than female employees who did not.
“This is about us being able to attract and retain amazing talent,” Hollister said.
Healey testified before a packed legislative hearing at the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development that Massachusetts’ equal pay act has not achieved equality. Healey said the issue is particularly important in the 40 percent of households with children where women are the primary or sole breadwinners. “We must do better not just for women but families across state,” Healey said.
Not all business groups are on board with the bill. Megan Sullivan, a Springfield lawyer who focuses on employment law and a member of the Associated Industries of Massachusetts board of directors, said a new law is unnecessary.
“Please don’t patronize me by pretending to create ‘new’ protections when you are not bringing anything new to the table on behalf of women,” Sullivan wrote on the AIM website. “The laws have long been clear: No employer has been allowed to discriminate against women for decades.”
Sullivan wrote that protections proposed by the bill are already part of federal law. She cited statistics indicating that Massachusetts performs better than much of the country when it comes to women’s economic security and opportunity. She worried that the bill would prevent employers from paying women more than men when an employer judges that a woman has better skills for a particular job. She said salary history is an important factor to use for hiring.
“I prefer to make business decisions based on non-discriminatory business reasons, rather than any politically expedient edict of the state or federal government,” Sullivan wrote.
If the legislation passes, it will still need support from Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, who has not yet taken a stance.
“The administration will continue to ensure the enforcement of federal and state laws prohibiting gender discrimination in employment and salary and will review legislative proposals to change those measures should they reach the Governor’s desk,” said Baker spokeswoman Lizzy Guyton.