It took barely 24 hours before what is believed to be the first lawsuit under the Massachusetts Equal Pay Act (“MEPA”) to be filed. On Monday morning, July 2, suit was filed on behalf of Elizabeth Rowe, principal flautist for the Boston Symphony Orchestra, in Suffolk County Superior Court. Rowe was hired for the role by the BSO in 2004, and the lawsuit claims that she has asked for years to be paid the same as the principal oboe player, a male. She alleges that the role of principal oboe is the one most comparable to her position and that paying her some $70,000 less per year amounts to a violation of MEPA.
One of the key provisions of the new Massachusetts Equal Pay Act (which goes into effect on July 1, 2018) is that it prohibits employers from requiring prospective employees to disclose their salary history. The reasoning behind this provision is as follows: if employers are allowed to ask applicants about their salary history, and base compensation on the answers to those questions, applicants who have been on the receiving end of discriminatory pay practices in the past will continue to be hampered by past pay inequity throughout their careers. If employers cannot base pay on what an applicant made previously, so the thinking goes, employers will have to set pay based on what the job is worth.