Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave: What Employers Need to Know Before July 1, 2019

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.

Massachusetts Passes Noncompete Reform Legislation

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.     

Navigating the Legalization of Marijuana in Massachusetts: What Employers Need to Know

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’s “Grand Bargain” Increases Minimum Wage, Ends Sunday Retail Premium Pay, and Provides Extensive Paid Leave

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.

Massachusetts Attorney General Issues Guidance on New Equal Pay Law

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.

Massachusetts High Court Addresses Investors’ and Boards of Directors’ Liability Under the Wage Act

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.

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Rules That Unused Paid Sick Leave Does Not Qualify as Wages Under the Commonwealth’s Wage Act

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.

Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act Takes Effect on April 1, 2018

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.

Massachusetts Once Again Is Considering Enacting Comprehensive Noncompete Legislation

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.

Preparing for the New Massachusetts Equal Pay Law, Part II: Which Policies to Revise in Light of the Upcoming Effective Date

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.

Massachusetts Federal Court Decision Highlights the Importance of FMLA Training and Compliance

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.

Preparing for the New Massachusetts Equal Pay Law, Part I: Whether, When, and How to Conduct a Pay Equity Audit

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.

Massachusetts Enacts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

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.

Massachusetts House Passes “Pregnant Workers Fairness Act”

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.

Massachusetts Superior Court Holds That Meal Breaks Are Compensable Unless Employees Are Relieved of All Work-Related Duties

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 High Court Rules Prong Two of Independent Contractor Test is Severable for FAAAA Preemption Purposes

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.

The Rising Minimum Wages and Tip Credits for 2017: An Overview

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.