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Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

On August 1, 2016, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed a bipartisan pay equity bill – S.2119, An Act to Establish Pay Equity – to prevent wage discrimination on the basis of gender.  The new law also prohibits employers from requiring applicants to provide their salary history before receiving a formal job offer. S.2119 will take effect on July 1, 2018 for employers and employees in Massachusetts.

“I am pleased to sign bipartisan legislation to create a more level playing field in the Commonwealth and ensure that everyone has the opportunity to earn a competitive salary for comparable work,” Governor Baker stated in a press release about S.2119. “I thank the Legislature for unanimously passing this bill and working closely with the business community to support women and families across the state.”

Passed unanimously by both legislative branches, the new law will ensure equal pay for “comparable work” for all Massachusetts workers and equal opportunities to earn competitive salaries in the workplace. The bill also allows employees to freely discuss their salaries with coworkers and authorizes the Attorney General to issue regulations interpreting and applying the expanded law. Under S.2119, it is unlawful for Massachusetts employers to:

  • (1) Require, as a condition of employment, that an employee refrain from inquiring about, discussing or disclosing information about either the employee’s own wages, including benefits or other compensation, or about any other employee’s wages;
  • (2) Screen job applicants based on their wage, including benefits or other compensation or salary histories, including by requiring that an applicant’s prior wages, including benefits or other compensation or salary history satisfy minimum or maximum criteria; or request or require as a condition of being interviewed, or as a condition of continuing to be considered for an offer of employment, that an applicant disclose prior wages or salary history;
  • (3) Seek the salary history of any prospective employee from any current or former employer; provided, however, that a prospective employee may provide written authorization to a prospective employer to confirm prior wages, including benefits or other compensation or salary history only after any offer of employment with compensation has been made to the prospective employee;
  • (4) Discharge or in any other manner retaliate against any employee because the employee: (i) opposed any act or practice made unlawful by this section; (ii) made or is about to make a complaint or has caused or is about to cause to be instituted any proceeding under this section; (iii) testified or is about to testify, assist or participate in any manner in an investigation or proceeding under this section; or (iv) disclosed the employee’s wages, benefits or other compensation or has inquired about or discussed the wages of any other employee.

However, the new law permits employers in Massachusetts to take certain attributes of an employee or applicant into account when determining variation in pay, such as their work experience, education, job training, or measurements of production, sales, or revenue. A copy of ‘S.2119, An Act to Establish Pay Equity’ is available online at

Since the new pay equity law in Massachusetts will prohibit employers in the Commonwealth from asking candidates about their salary history during interviews or as part of their “pre-employment” background screening process, Massachusetts employers should review their hiring and screening best practices well before ‘S.2119, An Act to Establish Pay Equity’ takes effect on July 1, 2018.

Massachusetts Pay Equity Law Just One State Law Affecting Background Checks

Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) – a global provider of fast, accurate, affordable, and compliant background checks that is accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) – offers updates on state laws affecting background checks for employers in all 50 states and the District of Columbia at

NOTE: Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) does not provide or offer legal services or legal advice of any kind or nature. Any information on this website is for educational purposes only.

© 2016 Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) – Making copies or using of any part of the ESR News Blog or ESR website for any purpose other than your own personal use is prohibited unless written authorization is first obtained from ESR.


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