• Equal Pay Act: New state law promises to help close gender wage gap

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    BOSTON - Paying women and men equally for the same job has been an elusive goal.

    A recent survey found that a woman in Boston makes 77 cents on the dollar compared to a man doing the same job.

    Saadie Jasmin, a worker in downtown Boston, thinks more should be done to insure income equality.

    “If they have the same qualifications, they should get the same annual salary, not based on if she's a woman, or he's a man," said Jasmin. 

    A new state law, the Equal Pay Act, will got into effect on July 1.  It promises to help close the gender pay gap. 

    The focus will shift from people doing the exact same job, to those who have a similar position in the same organization.  

    “You have to pay men and women equal pay for comparable jobs that have comparable skills in the same or comparable locations,” said Michelle Roccia, a senior vice president at Winter Wyman.

    Massachusetts was the first state to pass any law to close the wage gap, but it hasn’t been updated since 1945.

    Roccia says an important change will deal with a person’s salary history. A candidate won’t have to disclose how much they’ve made in the past, something that’s historically suppressed women’s wages.

    “If you start low, you stay low.”

    The new law will make it easier to fight discrimination in court.  

    The Equal Pay Act will significantly increase the fines a company can face if it is found to discriminate based on gender.  It will also have to reimburse any legal fees the employee paid up front. 

    Although supporters say the law is a good start, changing the culture in the workplace will take more than a new list of do’s and don’ts for employers.

    Former Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Evelyn Murphy is the co-chair of the Boston Women’s Workforce Council, a public-private partnership committed to eliminating gender bias.  

    “It’s not only the right thing to do, but it’s smart business,” said Murphy.  “All the research shows that.”

    The Council has created the “100% Talent Compact” to get companies directly involved in this effort. 

    Murphy said there is nothing else like this partnership in the country right now.  

    “It is relying on 225 signed employers to look and to take actions that will show how Boston can eliminate its gender wage gap," said Murphy.

    The Compact can make a difference, according to Murphy, because corporate CEOs are brought to the table.  

    “It’s that kind of leadership from the top that’s essential," said Murphy

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