Many Massachusetts employers carried out pay fairness self-audits in 2018, simply earlier than or quickly after the Massachusetts Equal Pay Act (MEPA) went into impact. Though it in all probability looks as if it was solely yesterday, July 1, 2021, will mark the third anniversary of the MEPA’s implementation. In case your group carried out a self-evaluation in 2018, that you must schedule one other quickly so you’ll be able to proceed to depend on an affirmative protection constructed into the Act.
How the MEPA Operates
Governor Charlie Baker signed the MEPA, an modification to the state’s Equal Pay Act, in 2016. The legislation’s objective is to scale back the pay hole between women and men by offering a broader definition of “comparable work” and limiting the suitable causes for paying folks of various genders otherwise. Notably, beneath the MEPA, pay variations between individuals performing comparable work are acceptable provided that they’re primarily based on:
- A seniority system;
- A benefit system;
- A per-unit or gross sales compensation scheme;
- The geographic location of the job;
- Training, coaching, and expertise; or
- The quantity of journey required.
The MEPA defines “comparable work” as duties requiring “considerably comparable talent, effort and accountability” and carried out beneath “comparable working situations.” The “considerably comparable” language is broader than the “equal pay” language used beneath federal legislation.
Affirmative Protection for Employers
The MEPA supplies a silver lining for employers. Your group is entitled to an affirmative protection should you (1) conduct a good-faith self-evaluation of your pay practices inside the three-year interval earlier than an equal pay lawsuit is filed and (2) show cheap progress towards eliminating any wage differentials.
In different phrases, should you adequately audit your pay practices inside the three years earlier than a lawsuit, you’ll be able to keep away from legal responsibility beneath the brand new legislation. One caveat: The self-evaluation should be “cheap intimately and scope in gentle of the dimensions of the employer.” You could conduct the audit earlier than any lawsuit is filed.
Get Your Lawyer Concerned
The lawyer common’s steerage on the MEPA features a step-by-step guidelines for the self-evaluation course of. It additionally recommends you seek the advice of with authorized counsel concerning the self-evaluation to make sure you’re utilizing essentially the most acceptable evaluation on your group.
We agree. Along with helping with the format for the evaluation, your employment lawyer can present a authorized opinion about whether or not (1) explicit jobs are comparable beneath MEPA and (2) your justifications for any pay disparities meet the brand new legislation’s necessities.
Furthermore, involving your lawyer means the self-evaluation will likely be protected by the attorney-client privilege, by which case you wouldn’t need to reveal the outcomes except you wished to take action. In any other case, you threat having the self-audit used as proof towards your group if an worker information a declare.
For these of you who accomplished a pay fairness self-audit shut to a few years in the past (or by no means carried out one), now’s the time to think about conducting one other one to guard your small business. With obligatory double damages, attorneys’ charges, and prices obtainable to a prevailing worker, performing an audit now might save your small business some huge cash later.