Lawmakers and activists talk a lot about equal pay and closing the wage gap, but I rarely see any substantial steps taken to rectify this disparity. Yesterday I was happy to learn that Massachusetts had taken a nice hop forward. The governor signed the bill on Monday—the Republican governor. We are so often split by party in our lawmaking, so it’s refreshing to see a beneficial bipartisan law get passed. Of course, as with any legislation, it could have been better, but a hop forward is better than a step back. That’s probably the motto of The League of Extraordinary Bunnies.
This law asserts that wage discrimination based on gender is illegal, as we’d all expect. That kind of rule hasn’t done much for those of us being discriminated against, but it’s nice and important anyway. This one took one extra step. It made it illegal for employers to screen employees based on prior wages or salary history. That means it’s now illegal in Massachusetts for employers to ask that one very annoying interview question: “So what did you make at your last job?” That terrible question that says, “We don’t want to pay you much more than what you already make, despite our actual budget for the role.” The question that says, “We are not judging you based on your value, but based the value someone else, and someone else, and someone else has given you.” The question that makes my heart sink every time I hear it, because I did a poor job negotiating when I was 23.
Instead, this law requires an employer to give the first offer. It tackles the issue that many women carry with them throughout their careers. Salaries tend to build on one another, moving in tiny increments like a very tired sloth. When a young woman doesn’t negotiate an equal salary for herself—never mind that it’s nearly impossible to find out what exactly an equal salary is or that she’ll probably be judged harshly for even asking—she’s punished for life. This law is meant to flip the script. It forces employers to make the first move, to tell her what the position is worth to them.
I wish someone had passed this law where I lived when I was in my early 20s. It would have saved me a lot of headaches and resentment. It would probably mean I’d have a better paycheck now and that would mean more tacos. And, really, that’s the biggest tragedy. The patriarchy has kept me from maximum taco consumption. Down with the Man.