Equal pay for equal work may seem like a commonsense way to compensate employees. However, employers in Texas and elsewhere are proving that it is a difficult goal to accomplish. For example, Massachusetts women earn only 82 percent of what men earn while black and Latina women earn even less. Both historical biases as well as an unwillingness to engage in workplace conflict may explain why the wage gap exists at all.

Massachusetts recently passed a bill in 2016 aimed at remedying the wage gap. It will take effect by 2018, and it forbids employers from asking about a job candidate’s salary history. It also forbids employers from terminating workers because they talked about their salary with their coworkers. Finally, the bill provides employers with a definition of comparable work as well as encouragement to review their current pay structures.

While there are federal laws against gender-based wage discrimination, cases may be difficult to prove, which is why Massachusetts and other states are stepping in. In Canada, there are seven steps businesses are encouraged to go through to determine equal value for equal work. They include looking at relevant data as well as looking at job criteria. From there, businesses are encouraged to work with employees and other interested parties to come up with plans to pay all workers equitably.

Employees who think that they are not being paid in accordance with state or federal law may wish to contact an attorney. Legal counsel may be able to review the case to determine how to proceed. If an employer is in violation of wage or other employment laws, there may be remedies available.