Last year, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed into law what has been referred to as the “grand bargain” legislation. When it was enacted, we covered some of the law’s key provisions that would have a significant impact on Massachusetts employers, including the phase-in of paid family and medical leave under the Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave Act (PFML). Since then, the Massachusetts Department of Family and Medical Leave (DFML), a new agency, has been established under the PFML to manage paid leave in the Commonwealth.
On January 29, 2019, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued a decision that addressed for the first time whether an employer’s failure to grant an employee’s lateral transfer request could support an employment discrimination claim in the matter of Yee v. Massachusetts State Police, SJC-12485.
In June 2018, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed into law An Act Relative to Minimum Wage, Paid Family Medical Leave and the Sales Tax Holiday.
In 2019, a number of states’ minimum wage rates will increase.
On October 13, 2018, the Massachusetts legislature amended the state’s Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) law. Many other U.S. territories and localities have passed ban-the-box laws over the last decade that limit employer inquiries into an applicant’s criminal history.
With Massachusetts’s comprehensive noncompete law taking effect on October 1, 2018, many employers are reviewing and likely revising their restrictive covenants to ensure that they are compliant with the new law.
The Massachusetts Legislature has passed legislation governing the use of noncompetition agreements in Massachusetts. Governor Charlie Baker is expected to sign the legislation into law by August 10, 2018. Assuming that occurs, the law will codify existing Massachusetts case law to some degree, and it also will go much further in regulating the enforceability of noncompetition agreements, including limiting who may be subject to such agreements.
In the most recent step in a decade-long effort to enact comprehensive noncompete legislation, the Massachusetts Senate on July 25, 2018, passed an economic development bill containing amendments to Chapter 149 of the Massachusetts General Laws to regulate the use of noncompetition agreements.
Massachusetts voters legalized recreational marijuana through a ballot referendum in 2016. As of July 1, 2018, retail marijuana stores are now permitted to operate in the state. The law allows cities and towns to exercise local control to ban or limit marijuana dispensaries, which are now opening in various locations around the state.
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker just signed into law the so-called “grand bargain” bill, which contains provisions that will have a significant effect on employers in the state. The law is a compromise designed to avoid potential ballot questions about an increase in the state minimum wage, paid leave, and a reduction in the state sales tax.
The Massachusetts legislature is once again seeking to enact comprehensive noncompetition legislation to rein in the use, and some may argue the abuse, of restrictive covenants in employment agreements.
On March 1, 2018, the Massachusetts Attorney General (AG) issued detailed guidance on the amendments to the Massachusetts Equal Pay Act (MEPA), which are set to go into effect on July 1, 2018. The amendments, which were enacted in 2016, will overhaul MEPA, a law that has been in effect for over 70 years, and make it one of the strictest pay equity laws in the nation.
Investors and members of boards of directors concerned about liability under the Massachusetts Wage Act, M.G.L. c. 149, § 148, can breathe a little easier after the Supreme Judicial Court’s (SJC) decision in Segal v. Genitrix, LLC, No. SJC-12291 (December 28, 2017). In Segal, the SJC refused to hold investors and individual directors individually liable for a company’s failure to pay wages to an employee because they were not empowered to act as “agents having the management” of the company.
In Mui v. Massachusetts Port Authority, issued on January 29, 2018, Massachusetts’s highest court decided an issue of first impression in the Commonwealth: whether accrued but unused paid sick time counts as “wages” for purposes of the Massachusetts Wage Act. Under the Wage Act, an employer that fails to pay wages is subject to strict liability, treble damages, and attorneys’ fees in a civil action for violation of the Act, and may also be subject to criminal liability. The plaintiff in Mui argued that the paid sick time he had accrued but hadn’t used at the time that he resigned from his employment with the Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport) qualified as wages, and thus that he was entitled to treble damages for Massport’s failure to pay him for that unused time when he resigned.
The Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, enacted in July of 2017, will take effect on April 1, 2018. The Act prohibits Massachusetts employers from denying pregnant women and new mothers reasonable accommodation for their pregnancies and any conditions related to their pregnancies, regardless of whether the pregnancies or related conditions constitute disabilities under existing federal or state discrimination law.
For nearly a decade, Massachusetts legislators have considered various bills aimed at regulating the use of noncompetition agreements in the commonwealth. Noncompetes currently are governed by Massachusetts case law which, although relatively well developed, sometimes leads to inconsistent results, in turn leading to uncertainty as to what restrictions will be enforced.
Massachusetts employers are reminded that, per legislation signed by Governor Charlie Baker in July 2016, qualifying veterans scheduled to work on Veterans Day who wish to participate in Veterans Day activities in their communities may be entitled to paid leave from their employers to do so.
As we get closer to the July 1, 2018 implementation date for the Massachusetts Equal Pay Act (MEPA), it is time to focus in earnest on practical workplace considerations for affected employers. Although the MEPA does not dictate what specific language employment policies must include, employers should align their internal policies and practices with the law’s detailed requirements. Employment policies that may require revision or amendment in order to comply with the provisions of MEPA cover not only compensation, but also hiring practices, interview procedures, commissions, merit-based bonuses, and confidentiality.
Navigating leave issues can be difficult: There are several statutes that provide employees with different, yet sometimes overlapping rights, and every situation is unique. Employers must ensure that members of management and those responsible for addressing leave situations are aware of the applicable legal requirements and trained on them.
The July 1, 2018, implementation date for the amendments to the Massachusetts Equal Pay Act (MEPA) is less than a year away. The amendments approved in 2016 will bring about substantial changes to the definition of “comparable work,” employer defenses, statutes of limitations, and prohibited employer practices, such as salary history inquiries.
On July 27, 2017, Governor Charlie Baker signed into law the Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, requiring Massachusetts employers to provide pregnant women and new mothers with “reasonable accommodations” for their pregnancies and any conditions related to their pregnancies. As a result, Massachusetts joins an increasing number of states across the country providing these rights.
The First Circuit Court of Appeals, in a case of first impression, recently issued an important ruling that will have a major impact on transportation companies using arbitration agreements in the states and territories located within the First Circuit (Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Rhode Island, and Puerto Rico).
In a recent decision, Buntin v. City of Boston, the First Circuit Court of Appeals held that there is no implied private right of action for damages against state actors under 42 U.S.C. Section 1981.
On May 10, 2017, the Massachusetts House, by unanimous vote (150-to-0), passed the Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. If enacted, the Act will expand existing protections for pregnant employees in Massachusetts and require employers to provide pregnant women and new mothers with “reasonable accommodations” for their pregnancies and any conditions related to their pregnancies.
In a decision that could spell trouble for Massachusetts employers, a judge in the Superior Court’s Business Litigation Session recently held that meal breaks count as “compensable working time,” for which employees must be paid, unless the employee is relieved of all work-related duties during the break. In reaching that decision, the court rejected the employer’s argument that the court should apply the more lenient federal standard, under which the compensability of meal breaks depends on whether the break time is spent “predominantly” for the benefit of the employer.
Massachusetts’s highest court recently issued a decision that impacts the ability of delivery companies operating in the commonwealth to use independent contractors in providing delivery services. In Chambers v. RDI Logistics, Inc., the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) ruled that the second prong of the state’s three-pronged independent contractor test is preempted by federal law when applied to motor carriers. Significantly, however, the SJC also ruled that the three prongs of the test are severable and that, even when the second prong is preempted, an employer must satisfy the other two prongs to avoid misclassification liability. The SJC ruling aligns with the First Circuit’s decision in Schwann v. FedEx Ground Package Sys., Inc.
Effective January 1, 2017, 29 states plus the District of Columbia will have minimum wage rates that are above the federal minimum wage rate of $7.25 per hour. The District of Columbia will continue to have, as it did last year, one of the highest minimum wage rates in the country at $11.50 per hour until July 1, 2017, and $12.50 per hour after that date. With respect to state minimum wages, Massachusetts and Washington will have the highest minimum wages at $11.00 per hour effective January 1, 2017, with California close behind at $10.50 per hour (for employers with 26 or more employees), effective January 1, 2017, and Connecticut following at $10.10 per hour, effective January 1, 2017.
In 2016, 17 states and the District of Columbia implemented increased minimum wage rates. This year, even more states are scheduled to do so.