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Attorney General Issues Guidance on the Massachusetts Equal Pay Act

Published:  March 9, 2018


The Massachusetts Attorney General recently issued its much awaited guidance for compliance with the updated provisions of the Massachusetts Equal Pay Act (“MEPA”).

The Attorney General’s guidance (“Guidance”) helps clarify several aspects of MEPA.  MEPA’s basic premise is equal pay for comparable work.  The Guidance helps clarify the definition of “comparable work” as requiring substantially similar skill, substantially similar effort, substantially similar responsibility, and performed under similar working conditions.  The determination of “comparable work” will be made based upon the facts of each individual circumstance and will not be based solely on job titles and job descriptions.

The Guidance also clarifies the enforcement mechanisms available under MEPA.  As employers have been aware, MEPA extends the statute of limitations for the filing of a lawsuit to three (3) years.  The Guidance also makes clear that a potential claimant can file a lawsuit immediately, and does not need to obtain a right to sue letter from the Attorney General.  Furthermore, a claim under MEPA does not need to be filed with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (“MCAD”) prior to a lawsuit being filed. 

Finally, and perhaps most importantly to employers, the Guidance clarifies how an employer can qualify for the safe harbor affirmative defense under MEPA.  To qualify for the safe harbor, an employer must have completed a good faith self-evaluation of its pay practices within the three (3) previous years and within one (1) year of the lawsuit being filed.  However, employers need to be aware that any such self-evaluation may be discoverable in litigation under other employment statutes.  Employers should therefore consult with employment counsel before commencing a self-evaluation of pay practices.

The full text of the Attorney General’s guidance letter can be found here: 

If you have any questions regarding MEPA or the safe harbor provision contained therein, or any other aspect of employment law, please contact the attorneys at Royal, P.C.