Effort to require public salary ranges advances on Beacon Hill

Many Massachusetts employers would need to provide an estimated salary range in job postings under newly moving legislation that top lawmakers pitched as a way to close gender and racial wage gaps.

The Labor and Workforce Development Committee on Monday advanced a redrafted bill that would require businesses with at least 25 employees to include a projected pay range in any hiring advertisement for a specific position, a change that would align Massachusetts with a small but growing number of states with similar measures on the books.

Rep. Josh Cutler of Duxbury and Sen. Patricia Jehlen of Somerville, the committee's chairs, pitched the legislation as a way to build on the state's equal pay law by better empowering workers. They dubbed the bill the Frances Perkins Workplace Equity Act, commemorating a Massachusetts native who was the first woman to serve as U.S. labor secretary.

"Our bill requires employers to disclose salary ranges in job postings and protects an employee's right to ask for salary ranges in the workplace," Cutler and Jehlen said in a joint statement. "Research shows that salary range transparency in the hiring process is one of the best tools to help close gender and racial wage gaps."

Any public or private employer with 25 or more employees posting a job would need to list the annual salary or hourly wages they "reasonably and in good faith" expect to pay under the bill. Some businesses already make that information available, but the legislation would impose it as a wide-reaching requirement.

That kind of mandate is a relatively new feature in the national labor landscape. Colorado in 2021 became the first state to start requiring salary ranges on job advertisements, according to CNBC. By June of this year, at least seven other states — California, Connecticut, Maryland, Nevada, New York, Rhode Island and Washington — had followed suit and required employers to post pay information for open jobs either proactively or upon request, CNBC reported.

The legislation that cleared the Labor and Workforce Development Committee on Monday also outlines new data-collection steps designed to monitor for gender and racial wage gaps within individual business sectors.

Employers with 100 or more full-time Massachusetts employees would be required to submit wage data reports, and the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development would publish aggregate wage data on an annual basis.

Cutler and Jehlen said tracking the aggregate data "is vital, as we cannot fix what we don't measure."

"Together these measures will help level the playing field for all workers and employers," the Democrats said.

In a report published in March, the National Women's Law Center estimated that Massachusetts women who work full-time all year earn 86 cents for every dollar that men make, the seventh-smallest gap among all states. When including part-time and partial-year workers, Bay State women earn only 74 cents for every dollar men make, the group said.

Bills that are reflected in the committee's redraft were among this session's priorities for both the Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators and the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women.

Every representative and senator on the committee voted in favor of the redrafted bill, according to Cutler. The measure moved to the House Ways and Means Committee.

House Speaker Ron Mariano's office said Tuesday the chamber's top Democrats plan in the coming weeks to bring forward legislation that would require many Massachusetts employers to disclose a wage or salary range on job postings.

"Enhancing wage transparency is a critical facet of the effort to ensure equal pay for equal work, and to make Massachusetts more competitive," Mariano said in a statement.

The measure quickly drew concerns from Retailers Association of Massachusetts President Jon Hurst, who said smaller businesses with fewer than 100 employees should not be subject to the salary-posting requirement.

"The Legislature must stop adding red tape and liability exposure for small employers with no staff HR Director, no staff attorney, and no regulatory staff," Hurst said in a statement to the State House News Service. "If this is about big, publicly traded companies, make the requirements reflect that objective."

The Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce previously raised concerns that an earlier draft of the bill also called on employers to include "other compensation" attached to a job posting, warning that it was too ambiguous, and featured an unclear prohibition on discrimination and retaliation against applicants.

A chamber official said Monday the redraft removed any reference to "other compensation" and narrowed the focus on preventing retaliation, though the business group is still hoping for additional tweaks.

"We are proud of our ongoing partnership with the Legislature on advancing pay equity in Massachusetts. The Chamber thanks the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development for working in collaboration with the Chamber on meaningful changes to strengthen [the bill]," Chamber President and CEO James Rooney said in a statement. "As this bill moves through the committee process, we will continue our dialogue with legislators to ensure this legislation is workable and practical for employers with the goal of a more equitable and inclusive business environment for all."

Officials at The Boston Foundation, which is the lead organizer on the Wage Equity Now Coalition that has been pushing for the reforms, said the group is "excited" about the committee moving the measure forward.

"Racial and gender equity is at the core of the work we have and continue to do and look forward to working with the Legislature to get this passed without delay," a foundation spokesperson said in a statement.



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