The Law @ Work

EEOC and Massachusetts Senate Informally dub January “Equal Pay” Month

by Stefanie Renaud

On January 29, 2016, in conjunction with the seven-year anniversary of the Lilly Ledbetter Equal Pay Act, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) has proposed a revision to the Employer Information Report (“EEO-1”) that will require employers of more than 100 employees to begin providing data on employee pay.  The proposed revision would add aggregate data on pay ranges and hours worked to the other required EEO-1 information — race, ethnicity, sex, and job category information ­­— beginning with the September 2017 report.  The Department of Labor (”DOL”) and the EEOC hope the new data will help battle gender-based pay disparity, which has lingered for nearly fifty years after the first Equal Pay Act,  in two ways.  First, assuming that the proposed revision goes forward, the new data will be aggregated and published by the EEOC, which hopes that employers will use this information to facilitate voluntary compliance with federal laws mandating equal pay.  Second, the DOL will use this data to “do its enforcement work . . . and root out discrimination” where it exists.  Proposed changes are available for inspection on the Federal Register website and will be official published in the Federal Register on February 1, 2016.  The public then has until April 1, 2016, to submit comments.

In Massachusetts, the Senate passed the “Pay Equity Bill” on January 28, 2016, which, if signed into law, would prohibit employers from discriminating on the basis of gender with regard to wages and other compensation.  The bill would require that men and women be paid the same rate for “comparable work,” defined as jobs that require similar skills, effort and level of responsibility.  The bill would also provide protection to employees who discuss their pay with others, ban employers from asking about salary history during the interview process, and encourage employers to conduct internal audits to ensure pay equality.  The bill now goes before the Massachusetts House for consideration.

The implications of these potential changes are obvious.  In anticipation of the possibility that these might become law, employers should ensure that they keep accurate records on the pay rates of each and every employee.  Second, employers should take time now to assess pay rates in their workforce and take steps to remedy inequity.  Third, employers should prepare for increased DOL enforcement if pay disparities are present.  Clearly, gender equity in pay is a hot topic that will draw increased attention this year, both in Massachusetts and on the federal level.

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