What is the Massachusetts Equal Pay Act?

The Massachusetts Equal Pay Act (MEPA) ensures equal pay for comparable work for all Massachusetts workers. 

The Act went into effect on July 1, 2018.

What Does the Act Do?

The Act does three things:

  1. It prohibits employers from asking job applicants about salary history, with the exceptions of when a candidate voluntarily discloses his or her pay, or the employer extends an offer of employment to the candidate.
  2. It prohibits employers from requiring that employees refrain from discussing wage information, with an exception for employees whose job it is to safeguard pay information. 
  3. It requires that employers provide equal pay for comparable work.

See details below.

Provisions of the Act

Pay History
The Act prohibits employers from asking job applicants about salary history, with two exceptions:

  • The candidate voluntarily discloses his or her pay; or
  • The employer extends an offer of employment to the candidate with stated compensation.

Pay Transparency
The Act prohibits employers from requiring that employees refrain from discussing wage information.

  • An employee whose position provides him/her with access to salary data can be prohibited from discussing pay information.

Comparable Work
The Act considers comparable work to be work that is “substantially similar in skill, effort, and responsibility, and is performed under similar working conditions.”

  • The Act still allows for wage fluctuations within comparable jobs based upon the following criteria: seniority; merit; commissions; geography; travel; education, training or experience.
  • Market conditions are not a justification for wage fluctuations.

See details about each of these provisions in our FAQs below.

What Can I Do?

As a Recruiter or Hiring Manager
  • Do not ask a candidate about salary history unless the candidate volunteers salary information or you have extended an offer of employment.
  • For MIT employees, you may verify their pay with the Compensation Office.
  • You may ask candidates what their pay "expectations" are.
As a Manager or Supervisor
  • You may remind employees that they do not have to discuss a colleague's pay if they don’t want to.
  • Ensure that employees with access to pay information as part of their job responsibilities do not discuss that information with other employees.
As an Employee
  • If you have questions about any of the provisions in the Act, please contact your manager or local HR representative.

See our FAQs

What is the Massachusetts Equal Pay Act (the “Act”)?

The Act is a law that ensures equal pay for comparable work for all Massachusetts employees. It will go into effect on July 1, 2018.

Which employees are covered by the Act?

The Act covers all full-time, part-time, seasonal, per-diem, and temporary employees. 

Pay History

When, if ever, may I ask an external candidate about his or her pay history?

Under the Act you cannot seek an external candidate’s pay history unless one of the two following exceptions exist: (1) the external candidate voluntarily discloses his or her pay, or (2) an offer of employment with compensation has been made to the external candidate.

For example, if you are conducting an initial phone interview of a candidate and they voluntarily disclose what they are currently making, you can discuss the candidate’s pay in future conversations. As another example, if a candidate has not disclosed their pay and you make them an offer with stated compensation, and they say “that’s not even as much as I currently make,” you can then feel free to ask what their current pay is.

May I ask an internal candidate who is applying for another position within MIT about their salary history?

Yes. MIT already has this information so you can feel free to ask an internal candidate about their current or past pay. You can also discuss an internal candidate’s pay with your local HR professional or the Compensation Office.

May I pay an employee of one gender less in wages or salary than employees of a different gender based on his or her pay history?

No. The Act specifically provides that an employee’s previous wage or salary history may not be used in determining pay.

May I ask an external candidate about their salary requirements or expectations?

Yes. Nothing in the Act prohibits you from asking an external candidate about his or her compensation needs or expectations. However, you should proceed with caution when asking such questions and ensure that such questions are not framed or posed in a way that is intended to elicit information from the external candidate about his or her pay history. For example, you should avoid asking follow-up questions such as “what is that expectation or need based on” that may be reasonably likely to prompt the external candidate to disclose his or her pay history.

May I screen an external candidate based on their previous pay?

No. The Act specifically prohibits employers from requiring that an external candidate’s wage or salary history meet certain criteria.

Pay Transparency

May I tell my employees not to engage in discussions about their wages?

No, you cannot prohibit employees from discussing either their own wages or their coworkers’ wages or from disclosing wage information to any person or entity. You can only prohibit those employees whose job responsibilities give them access to other employees’ compensation information from discussing wage information.

For example, you cannot reward a high performer with a pay increase and tell them not to tell anyone about the increase. You can, however, tell an HR professional who has access to payroll records that they cannot discuss wage information.

May an employer retaliate against an employee who complains or reports a violation of MEPA?

No. Retaliation is illegal. An employer may not retaliate against an employee for exercising or attempting to exercise rights under MEPA including: formally or informally complaining or inquiring about an alleged violation of the law; communicating with any person, including coworkers, about any violation of the law; testifying or otherwise participating in an administrative or judicial investigation or other proceeding regarding an alleged violation of the law; or informing another person of that person’s potential rights under the law.

Comparable Work

The Act requires that employees of different genders be paid equally for comparable work. What is “comparable work?”

The Act defines “comparable work” as work that requires substantially similar skill, effort, and responsibility, and is performed under similar working conditions. It is unlawful under the Act to pay employees of different genders unequal wages for comparable work, unless a statutory exception applies (see the next question).

When may I pay different wages to employees who perform comparable work?

The Act permits differences in pay for comparable work only when based upon the following:

  1. a system that rewards seniority with the employer (provided, however, that time spent on leave due to a pregnancy-related condition and protected parental, family and medical leave, shall not reduce seniority);
  2. a merit system;
  3. a system which measures earnings by quantity or quality of production, sales, or revenue;
  4. the geographic location in which a job is performed;
  5. education, training or experience to the extent such factors are reasonably related to the particular job in question; or
  6. travel, if the travel is a regular and necessary condition of the particular job.

May I rely on job titles or descriptions to determine which positions are comparable?

Not necessarily. A determination as to whether two jobs are “comparable” under the Act should focus on the skill, effort, and responsibility actually required to perform the jobs, irrespective of job titles or descriptions.

Are we only responsible for ensuring pay equity between employees of different genders?

No. The Act only addresses the issue of pay equity between genders; however, MIT has a responsibility to ensure pay equity among other groups of people as well (e.g., MIT's Affirmative Action Program seeks to ensure pay equity between employees of different races and/or ethnicities).

What is included in “wages” for the purposes of this law?

“Wages” is defined broadly to include all forms of remuneration for work performed, including commissions, bonuses, profit sharing, paid personal time off, vacation and holiday pay, expense accounts, car and gas allowances, retirement plans, insurance, and other benefits, whether paid directly to the employee or to a third-party on the employee’s behalf.

Note: not all of these benefits are benefits at MIT; this is the definition in the law.

Can changes in the local labor market justify paying different wages to employees who perform comparable work?

No.  Neither changes in the local labor market nor other market forces are included among the valid reasons for variations in pay enumerated in the statute.

Who should I go to if an employee raises a salary concern?

You should talk to your department’s HR representative or contact MIT’s Compensation Office.

How do I ensure equity within my area? Throughout the Institute?

You should work with the HR professional within your area to determine equity within your organization. You or your HR  representative should work with the Compensation Office to understand equity throughout the Institute.

What’s the difference between a pay range and a hiring range?

Many (but not all) payroll categories have pay ranges. Pay ranges are broader than hiring ranges. Hiring ranges are helpful in narrowing the pay span that would realistically be considered for a position when recruiting. 

Should I include a hiring range within my job postings?

Yes, we encourage you to include hiring ranges within your job postings. Hiring ranges will allow candidates to self-select whether they are a fit for the position.

How should I determine a hiring range?

You or the HR professional in your area should work with MIT’s Compensation professionals to determine an appropriate hiring range. MIT's Compensation professionals understand the pay levels within your department and across the Institute.

What if my budget cannot accommodate an appropriate pay level for a position?

Budget is not a defense for pay disparities. Therefore, equity concerns need to be carefully considered before a job is posted and before an offer is made.

How can I ensure that applicants understand the hiring range?

  1. Prominently post the position’s hiring range within the job posting;
  2. Inform all candidates of the hiring range during the initial phone interview;
  3. Ask them if the range is in line with their expectations.

What if I tell a candidate the hiring range and it is lower than their expectation? Can I then change the hiring range?

If you are finding that most candidates have higher expectations than the posted range, then a range adjustment may be warranted. A position’s hiring range should not be changed without having a discussion with a Compensation professional.

Where Can I Learn More?