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Interview questions you can and can not ask under the new Massachusetts Pay Equity Act

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On July 1, a new pay equity law will come into effect in Massachusetts – and it will have an impact on the small businesses you may need. The Massachusetts Equal Pay Act (MEPA) aims to ensure greater fairness and clarify what constitutes unlawful wage discrimination. So, small businesses in the state may need to make some adjustments to their hiring and interview processes in order to comply.

Beth Cabrera, executive vice president of KNF & T Staffing Resources, explained in a phone interview with Small Business Trends: "The idea behind the law is to level the playing field for people of different sexes, particularly in terms of wages. Historically, women have had lower pay levels for comparable work. So the idea around this law is that companies can not compel applicants to disclose their previous salary. "



New Interview Rules from the Massachusetts Pay Equity Update

So, when you are interviewing candidates in Massachusetts, there are now some specific questions that you should avoid. Here are some suggestions for changing the framing of your questions so that you can stay compliant and ensure fair compensation among your employees.

Do not ask: What do you earn at your current job?

The most fundamental part of this law is to prevent companies from paying lower wages to women or other underserved groups because of what these individuals have been paid in the past. So, whether in an interview or a job application, you can not directly ask about the salary history of a candidate, past or present.

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Ask: What are your salary expectations?

However, you can still ask what salary they are looking for. You just need to be a little cautious about how you frame the issue. Cabrera says she's now trying to stay away from the phrase "salary target", opting instead for "salary expectations". The latter just makes it a little clearer that it's only a question of what the candidate expects to win rather than framing as a salary goal based on what they've won in the past.

Do not ask: What was the breakdown between your base salary and your commission?

Cabrera says that companies should also stay away from issues bypassing the issue of past or present pay. For example, some might be tempted to ask how a candidate's salary was split between base salary and commission, hoping that the candidate will provide concrete examples of what he actually earned.

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Instead of asking: What type of salary structure are you comfortable with?

If you are really looking for what they are looking for in terms of salary distribution, you can still get this type of information from the candidate without inquiring about their past salary. Just ask what structure they are comfortable for going forward without making any reference to what they have earned in their previous jobs.

Do not ask: why do you feel this number?

"You must also stay away from suggestive questions," says Cabrera.

As a general rule, this means that you should stay away from any questions referring to the issue of past or current salary. Asking a candidate how he or she has achieved a particular salary target or why he or she thinks that this salary is right for him or her is a matter of past salary.

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Put the question: What value would you bring to the role?

Essentially, the new legislation aims to ensure that companies pay salaries comparable to those in comparable positions. This is not because a candidate has traditionally been underpaid that he should continue to be underpaid in the future. So, Cabrera recommends not only to create pay scales for new positions based on the actual value that the job creates, but also by looking at your current employees and making sure that people with similar functions earn about the same amount.

Cabrera says, "We need to change direction from the wage history up to the value of employment. Regardless of what the person has earned, you must determine the value of that particular job and then go ahead. "

So by reviewing applications and interviewing potential new employees, keep in mind the value rather than the actual cost. You should already have a salary in mind, then choose the candidates that you think will bring the most value to the role.

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Photo via Shutterstock


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