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Lawmakers make strides for Massachusetts' employee rights

Workplace discrimination can sometimes start well before a person is even officially hired. For years, Massachusetts employers have violated employee rights by inquiring about salaries from previous jobs. A new law takes direct aim at this and also outlaws the common practice of banning co-workers from discussing their salaries with one another.

The practice of asking job applicants about their previous salaries often serves as a pretense for discriminating against potential employees, especially women. Disclosing former paygrades can lead to lowball offers and the locking in of salaries that are unreasonably low for the job in question. Although the new law will not be fully implemented until July 2018, local officials are hopeful that it will help address the pay disparity between men and women. The Pew Research Center recently put that difference at 84 cents, although the figure is significantly better for younger women at a rate of 93 cents for every dollar made by a man in the same position.

Lifting bans on inter-company salary discussions also has the potential to level the playing field. Employees who are forbidden from talking about their personal salaries with their co-workers are more likely to have depressed pay compared with other workers in similar positions at different companies. Allowing workers to freely discuss their pay can prevent employers from wrongly keeping certain salaries lower than others.

Most Massachusetts workers like to believe that they are being fairly compensated for their work. With practices in place that prevent transparency, the opposite is often true. Keeping employees in the dark regarding typical pay while basing compensation on past work endeavors creates dangerous opportunities to violate employee rights. Workers who have been seriously underpaid for their work can usually take action against their employer in order to recover wages lost because of discrimination.

Source: qz.com, "Massachusetts employers won't be allowed to ask about your salary history", Oliver Staley, Aug. 3, 2016

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