Let’s say you forget to buy your weekly bunch of bananas during your most recent grocery run. Those bananas usually cost 30 cents per pound, but when you decide to go to the store by work to grab them you find they charge $1.50 a pound. Yikes! It’s likely you’ll opt to skip the price hike and go back to get the best deal by swinging through the local store tomorrow.
When you know how little you can pay for something you need, it’s human nature to seek out the best price. This same concept has caused employers to subconsciously wage discriminate for years. For women and minorities, this value-driven mindset pays them pennies on the dollar when compared to most Caucasian men.
One of the easiest ways for companies to get away with wage gouging is by asking during the application process how much professionals have made at their current and previous positions. If an employee states she is paid $20,000 less at her current position than the comparable job for which she’s applying, it’s easy to swoop in and give her a raise to make her happy while all the while paying her less than her colleagues.
Gender-based pay discrimination is illegal, but violations are difficult to prove. Women continue to be paid 79 cents for every dollar that men earn, according to the United States Census Bureau. Whether it’s gender, age, ethnicity or another characteristic, wage gaps persist in virtually every industry.
In an effort to eliminate wage discrimination, Massachusetts just passed a law making it illegal for employers to inquire about applicants’ salaries prior to making a job offer. This is the first state to pass this landmark legislation.
“The new law will require hiring managers to state a compensation figure upfront — based on what an applicant’s worth is to the company, rather than on what he or she made in a previous position,” reports The New York Times.
Although this law won’t go into effect until July 2018, it’s a noteworthy effort to kill wage discrimination at the hiring level. Plus, it’s a huge relief to job applicants who perpetually wonder if the salary they were offered could have been more if that intrusive question hadn’t existed on the application.
Not only does this law help ensure equal pay, it will produce other gains. First, it will help employers increase employee engagement and loyalty because they are offering all workers a fair wage. It also could help minimize turnover while increasing workforce diversity.
It should help the economy, too, when it comes to the big picture. The New York Times article points out, “Closing the gender wage gap would lower the poverty rates in every state, according to an analysis by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.”
Other states have laws to help promote equal pay, but none have communicated as clear a message as the new Massachusetts law. Hopefully more states will follow suit in an effort to recognize the importance of equal pay for every worker who makes up the melting pot that is the United States of America.