City of Cambridge

Equal Pay initiative

Pay equity Logo

In early 2016, Mayor Denise Simmons convened a Committee on Women’s Equal Pay - a group of local political, business, academic and non-profit leaders to help determine how the City of Cambridge could best address gender wage disparities in the City.

Two important initiatives to come out of this committee are the pay equity dashboard and the Early Adopters of Equal Pay Initiative

The purpose behind creating the pay equity dashboard was to display the City’s wage data in a transparent and easily accessible way so that anyone would have access to it. The Early Adopters initiative highlights local employers that already engage in equitable pay practices or those that are ready to embrace the concept of equal pay and will start taking steps to identify wage disparities in their businesses with the intent to remedy them.

Become an Early Adopter of Equal Pay in Cambridge!

Join The City of Cambridge and 20+ local businesses in taking action to close the gender wage gap now.


Key Information

Mayor’s Committee on Women’s Equal Pay

Honorary Chair
  • Congresswoman Katherine Clark
Executive Steering Committee
  • Eva Martin Blythe, YWCA Cambridge
  • Danielle Boudrow, Women & Public Policy Program at Harvard Kennedy School
  • Victoria Budson, Women & Public Policy Program at Harvard Kennedy School
  • Elaine DeRosa, Cambridge Economic Opportunity Committee
  • Christa Kelleher, Center for Women in Politics & Public Policy at Umass Boston
  • Kimberly Sansoucy, Cambridge Women’s Commission
Advisory Committee

Ameedah Abuwi, Barbara Allen, Manikka Bowman, Lydia Placid-Brooks, Megan Costello, Sarah Gallop, Kathleen Granchelli, Victoria Harris, Sally Haslanger, Denise Jillson, Kathleen Kelly, Marie Killackey, Susan Lapierre, Alexandra Lee, Priscilla Lopes, MaryRose Mazzola, Risa Mednick, Yeabsera Mengistu, Brianna Mirabile, Lisa Peterson, Geeta Pradhan, Dr. Carolyn Turk, Reverend Virginia Ward

Early Adopters of Equal Pay

  • Bookkeeping Plus More
  • Bon Me Foods
  • Cambridge Economic Opportunity Committee, Inc.
  • Cambridge- Ellis School
  • Cambridge Housing Authority
  • Cambridge Naturals
  • Cambridge Trust Company
  • Eastern Bank
  • Enroot Education
  • Flour Bakery + Cafe
  • Food for Free Committee, Inc.
  • GQS Management Inc.
  • Harvard Book Store
  • Harvard Square Business Association
  • Hildebrand Family Self-Help Center, Inc.
  • Irving House at Harvard & Harding
  • LDa Architecture & Interiors, LLP
  • Middle East Restaurant & Nightclub
  • Miller-Havens Art
  • Nickerson People Relations LLC
  • Porter Square Books
  • Salt & Olive
  • The BigSkinny
  • The Dance Complex
  • The Williams Agency
  • TrademarkR Tours
  • Transition House
  • Trinity Property Management
  • Union of Concerned Scientists
  • Windsor House Adult Day Healthcare Center
  • YWCA Cambridge
  • Za & EVOO Restaurants
  • Zinneken’s

A Brief Summary of the New Pay Equity Law

Effective Date

An Act to Establish Pay Equity (Chapter 177 of the Acts of 2016) goes into effect July 1, 2018, and amends G.L. c.149, §105A.

Key Provisions

Salary History
Massachusetts is the first state to prohibit potential employers from asking about applicants’ salary history before making a job offer. Employees are free to share their salaries with potential employers at any time if they so choose but they cannot be compelled to do so. 

Comparable Work
The law broadens the definition of “comparable work” in the context of pay discrimination by prohibiting employers from discriminating “on the basis of gender in the payment of wages” and from “pay[ing] any person in its employ a salary or wage rate less than the rates paid to employees of a different gender for comparable work.” The law recognizes six justifications for pay disparities for workers performing comparable work.

Compensation Transparency

The law also increases compensation transparency by protecting employees’ freedom to disclose their salary or wages to coworkers. Employers may not fire or otherwise retaliate against employees who discuss their own compensation level with others.

Affirmative Defense

The law also provides for an affirmative defense for employers that conduct internal wage audits and seek to remedy any disparities. 

The law may be enforced by the Attorney General or one or more employees in a court of competent jurisdiction. Therefore, an employee does not need to first file a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination.

Know Your Equal Pay Rights

As of July 1, 2018:

As a Job Candidate…

Prospective employers will no longer be permitted to ask for your current or previous salary prior to making a formal job offer that includes compensation. 

As an Employee…

Salary/Wage Information

You will be free to openly discuss and/or disclose your salary with colleagues without fear of retaliation or alienation by your employer. 

You can approach your employer for information on the salaries of other employees without fear of retaliation or alienation. Your employer will not be obligated to provide the requested information. 

Comparable Worth

If a Massachusetts court of law determines that you are receiving a salary or wages that are less than the salaries or wages paid to colleagues of a different gender for doing comparable work you will be entitled to the difference in pay.  Your employer can assert an affirmative defense that may shield it from liability if within the previous three years and prior to your claim it audited its pay practices and can demonstrate that it has made reasonable progress in eliminating a gender pay gap.

The definition of “comparable work” includes work that is “substantially similar” (requiring substantially similar skill, effort and responsibility and performed under similar working conditions). Wage variations are permitted if based on: seniority (however your employer will not be permitted to reduce your seniority and/or corresponding pay in response to your pregnancy, or protected parental, family or medical leaves); a merit system; a system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production, sales, or revenue; geographic location in which a job is performed; education, training, or experience; or travel.

You will be entitled to recover the difference in pay regardless of whether or not your employer has received your permission in the past, through contract or otherwise, for this discrepancy in pay. 

Legal Action

If you choose to take legal action against your employer alleging discrimination on the basis of gender in the payment of wages you will no longer be required to file a charge of discrimination with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination as a prerequisite before filing in court.

You will have up to 3 years from the time of a violation to make a claim for a violation of this statute, G.L. c.149, §105A.

Damages for successful litigants will include unpaid wages, plus liquidated damages in an amount equal to unpaid wages, and costs and reasonable attorney’s fees.

If you file a complaint regarding unequal pay against your employer, he or she is not permitted to terminate your position or retaliate against you in response. 

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The Equal Pay Law: Employer Responsibilities

Effective on July 1, 2018

Compensation History
The law includes prohibitions on what employers may ask prospective employees about their wage history. Employers may not require prospective employees to disclose during the interview process their prior wages or salary history, nor may they require that the applicants meet a minimum or maximum salary to be eligible for a job. Further, employers are prohibited from seeking applicants’ salary history from their current or former employers. However, if a prospective employee voluntarily discloses compensation information, or after a formal job offer that includes compensation is negotiated and made, a prospective employer may verify salary history.

Salary/Wage Information
The law makes it unlawful for employers to prohibit employees from discussing or disclosing information about their own wages and benefits, or the wages of other employees. Employers are not obligated to disclose an employee’s wages to another employee or to a third party.

Comparable Work
The new law clarifies and broadens “comparable work.” It prohibits employers from relying solely on a job title or job description to determine whether work is comparable and defines “comparable work” to mean “work that is substantially similar in that it requires substantially similar skill, effort and responsibility and is performed under similar working conditions.” The new law recognizes six justifications for wage disparities and variations in pay are permissible if based upon:
  • Bona fide seniority system, provided that that job-protected leave does not reduce seniority; 
  • A bona fide merit system;
  • A bona fide system measuring quality or quantity of production or sales:
  • Geographic location of where the job is performed;
  • Education, training, or experience to the extent these factors reasonably relate it the job at issue and the business necessity; or
  • Travel, if travel is a regular and necessary condition of the job.
Affirmative Defense
The law establishes an affirmative defense for employers who have audited their pay practices within the prior three years and prior to the commencement of a claim of a violation. Specifically, employers who engage in a good-faith self-evaluation of their pay practices and “demonstrate that reasonable progress has been made towards eliminating wage differentials based on gender for comparable work,” have an affirmative defense to pay discrimination claims. If a self-evaluation is completed but the employer cannot demonstrate that the evaluation was reasonable in detail and scope, the employer will not be entitled to the affirmative defense, but the employer will not be liable for liquidated damages. The law also prohibits courts from drawing an adverse inference against employers who have not done a voluntary audit. 

Equalizing Pay Cuts
An employer cannot reduce an employee’s compensation solely to comply with the law.

Under the new law, the statute of limitations has been extended from one year to three years. The maximum fine for a violation is $100. The new law also allows employees to go directly to court with their pay discrimination claims without first bringing a complaint to the Massachusetts Commission against Discrimination or the Attorney General’s Office.

Attorney General: Guidance
There may be regulatory guidance from the Massachusetts Attorney General, who is empowered to issue regulations under the law.

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The following sources were used in development of the explanations provided above:

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