Work it Out Blog

Ban the Box Version 2.0: An Effort to Close the Gender Wage Gap

Sep 01, 2016

According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, the wage gap between female full-time workers and male full-time workers was 21% in 2015. This means that in 2015, women were paid $0.79 for every dollar earned by men for the same work. The gender wage gap has become a hot-button issue, as many are fighting to ensure that women are paid the same as men for comparable work.

In an attempt to address the gender wage gap, Massachusetts has become the first state to enact a law that prohibits employers from asking job candidates about their salary history until after a job offer is made. Under the Massachusetts Pay Equity Act, which goes into effect in 2018, employers in Massachusetts must update their job applications to remove any inquiries into a job candidate’s current or prior salary. Further, employers cannot ask job candidates about their salary history during the interview process. While the new law is aimed at ensuring that women are not paid less than men, it will equally apply to other groups such as minorities and men who are paid less than women.

Prohibiting pre-offer salary inquiries is intended to prevent historically lower salaries from “following” women from one job to the next. It is designed to build awareness for employers that are not consciously discriminating, but that may routinely pay women less simply by basing new hire salary on prior earnings. “I am pleased to sign bipartisan legislation to create a more level playing field in the Commonwealth and ensure that everyone has the opportunity to earn a competitive salary for comparable work,” stated Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker.

While this is the first law prohibiting pre-offer questions about wages, employers across the country already face limitations on questions that can be asked and information that can be gathered in determining whether to hire a prospective employee. Questions relating to personal information such as religious affiliation, race, age, disability, familial status and political affiliation are among those that employers should never ask on a job application or during an interview. More recently, civil rights groups have initiated a “ban-the-box” campaign in an effort to remove application check-boxes inquiring as to whether a candidate has a criminal record. These limitations present a need for employers to fully understand what information they can legally gather, while still ensuring they are gathering the necessary information to determine whether a candidate is a good fit.

While gender discrimination in the workplace is already prohibited at the national level, Massachusetts’ new law is an example of a prohibition placed upon employers to specifically address the gender wage gap. This new law has been described as “groundbreaking,” but whether it will be used as a model in other states is yet to be seen. 

For more information on gender discrimination, employment applications, or any other employment issues, please contact the employment law group at Day Ketterer, call 330.455.0173, or email

The content of this blog is for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice for any purpose. This blog is not intended to present an exhaustive summary of all applicable laws, or to take the place of legal advice.  If you have any questions regarding the law, please contact us for assistance.