Pay transparency promotes equality and empowers workers

During the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, Mainers have increasingly recognized the value of their labor and demanded to be paid fairly. Workers in traditionally low-wage occupations, in particular, have been able to find jobs with higher pay and better working conditions. 

One key way workers can make these kinds of gains is by comparing wages and benefits between employers and either switching jobs or asking for a raise if they’re being undervalued. A bill currently before the legislature LD 936, “An Act to Require Disclosure of Pay Ranges and Record Keeping of Pay History” — would ensure this information is readily accessible to all job-seekers by requiring all job postings in Maine to indicate a pay range. As a result, it would empower workers, make Maine a more attractive place to work, help better match jobseekers with available jobs, and improve the labor market for everyone.  

It’s clear that jobseekers increasingly want this information available. Surveys show overwhelming majorities of job seekers think the wage or salary range is the most important factor in looking for a new job and it’s important to know the amount before applying. Currently, either jobseekers are not applying for jobs because they don’t realize how much they could be paid, or they are wasting time for both themselves and employers by pursuing a position that may not meet their needs. This bill will both meet a demand from Mainers who are looking for work and has the potential to make Maine a more attractive destination for people moving from out of state. 

What’s more, pay disclosure will ensure job applicants are given a fair pay offer if they are offered a position. For women and people of color, this is particularly important. Women in Maine typically earn just 82 percent of a man’s wages. And for women of color the differential is even larger. Black women in Maine who were born outside the US typically earn just 48 percent of a white non-Hispanic man’s wages.1 There are many factors underlying the “wage gap” including women being pushed into low-paying work and employers lowballing women and people of color at job interviews One survey found women are offered lower salaries than men 60 percent of the time, when they are hired. Maine has made progress on this issue by prohibiting asking about prior salaries as part of a job application and LD 936 will build on that effort. Making pay ranges available to all applicants will  prevent lowballing women and lead to fairer wages. 

From an economic perspective, this legislation will help the job market function more efficiently. Right now, too many people are stuck in the wrong jobs or paid too little because they don’t know what their other options are. Making more information available to current and potential workers allows them to make more informed choices. How much someone is paid should reflect the value of their labor, and workers should be in roles where they produce the most value to employers. LD 936 helps move us in that direction. 

LD 936 would have many benefits, not just to workers but to the economy as a whole, and would put Maine on par with several other states and large cities which have passed similar laws. Maine Center for Economic Policy urges legislators to act quickly and follow the Labor Committee’s recommendation to pass the bill. 


[1] Median earnings for white non-Hispanic men and Black women born overseas employed in Maine. ACS 2017-2021 data using the Integrated Public Use Microdata System (IPUMS)