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When applying for a job, most applicants expect to answer a few questions about their past salaries. But that will no longer be the case in Massachusetts.

In what the New York Times described as “a groundbreaking effort to close the wage gap between men and women,” Massachusetts became the first state to bar employers from asking about applicants’ salaries. The bipartisan legislation was signed into law on Monday by Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, and will go into effect in July 2018. It requires employers to disclose compensation upfront — and that figure be based on an applicant’s worth to the company as opposed to what they made at another job.

The idea behind the law is that preventing companies from asking prospective employees what they earned at previous jobs will ensure women and minorities have a fair shot at competing with men, who tend to earn more, the Times reports. The law also bars employers from prohibiting workers from sharing salary info, which advocates hope will boost salary transparency.

As it stands, women are paid 79 cents for every dollar men earn, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and gender pay disparities persist in nearly every occupation from construction to information technology. A number of factors play into this, of course, but in general, the gender pay gap tends to vary by which state a woman calls home, along with her age and race. According to a 2016 report from the American Association of University Women, Asian-American women earn 90% of white men’s incomes, while African-American women are only paid 63% of their salaries. Worse still, Hispanic or Latina women earn nearly half (54%) of what white men do.

To further level the playing field, the Massachusetts law will also require equal pay for work of “comparable character,” the Times reports.

“This is a sea change, and we hope it will be used as a model in other states,” Victoria A. Budson, executive director of the Women and Public Policy Program at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and chairwoman of the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women, told the Times.

Getting Better Pay

Whether more states follow Massachusetts’ lead remains to be seen. In the meantime, you may be able to increase your paycheck by negotiating a raise with your employer or researching and applying to companies that are known to offer better compensation packages to qualified employees.

And, if you’re applying for a job, it’s a good idea to know where your credit stands, as some employers review a version of your credit report during their application process. You can check your credit by pulling your credit reports for free each year at AnnualCreditReport.com and by viewing a free credit report summary, updated each month, on Credit.com.

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