Massachusetts Appeals Court Holds That Home Inspection Company’s Inspectors Were Independent Contractors Under ‘ABC’ Test

In a decision that further clarifies Massachusetts law with regard to employee classification, the Massachusetts Appeals Court recently held that home inspectors working on behalf of an inspectional services company were independent contractors (and not employees) under the ABC test for determining employment status, and, therefore, ineligible for unemployment benefits.

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Holds That FLSA Preempts Wage Act Remedies for Federal Overtime Violations

On April 14, 2022, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) ruled that when an employee pursues and succeeds on a claim for the failure to pay overtime wages under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the employee may not recover treble damages and other remedies under the Massachusetts Wage Act for the failure to pay those wages.

Massachusetts SJC: Employers Are Strictly Liable for Treble Damages for Late, Pre-Suit Wage Payments

On April 4, 2022, in Reuter v. City of Methuen, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) held that employers are strictly liable for treble damages for making late wage payments, even when an employee has not yet filed suit asserting a wage claim. In so holding, the SJC rejected an often-cited trial court decision, Dobin v. CIOview Corp., that employers had long relied upon to correct pre-suit late wage payments by paying unpaid amounts in full, with trebled interest.

Massachusetts COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act to End on March 15, 2022

On May 28, 2021, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed into law an act requiring eligible Massachusetts employers to provide emergency paid sick leave to employees who are unable to work for COVID-19–related reasons. On September 29, 2021, Governor Baker approved an extension of the law, titled “An Act Providing for Massachusetts COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Leave,” and increased its funding.

First Circuit Creates Split Regarding Federal Court Jurisdiction Over FLSA Multistate Collective Actions

On January 13, 2022, in Waters v. Day & Zimmermann NPS, Inc., the First Circuit Court of Appeals became the third federal appellate court to address the application of the Supreme Court of the United States’ decision in Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court of California to Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) collective actions. Unlike the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, however, the First Circuit concluded that a federal court does have personal jurisdiction over claims asserted by nonresident opt-in plaintiffs. The First Circuit’s decision thus creates a split among federal appeals courts and raises the prospect that the Supreme Court will ultimately have to resolve the issue.

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Rules in Favor of Worker Fired for Rebutting Negative Performance Improvement Plan

On December 17, 2021, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) ruled that an employee discharged for submitting a written rebuttal to his employer in response to the placement of negative information in his personnel file can state a claim against the employer for wrongful termination in violation of public policy.

Minimum Wage Increases in 2022: A Chart of Upcoming Changes and Interactive Map

In 2022, while the federal minimum wage will remain at $7.25 per hour for non-tipped employees and $2.13 per hour for tipped employees, several states’ minimum wage rates will increase. The chart below lists the state (and certain major locality) minimum wage rate increases for 2022—and future years if available—along with the related changes in the maximum tip credit and minimum cash wage for tipped employees.

Massachusetts Court Ruling Highlights Importance of Employer Responses to Personnel File Requests in Motions to Compel Arbitration

Judge Shannon Frison, sitting in the Middlesex County Superior Court in Massachusetts, recently issued a ruling that highlights for employers the importance of providing complete and timely responses to requests for employee personnel files. Judge Frison’s ruling arose in the context of an employer’s motion to dismiss or compel arbitration in accordance with the terms of an arbitration agreement that the employer had failed to produce in response to a request for the employee’s personnel file.

Fifth Circuit Rules Day Rate Compensation Does Not Satisfy Requirement of Payment on a Salaried Basis for Exempt Status

The issue of the proper application of the highly compensated employee exemption under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), as it applies to employees paid on a “day-rate” basis in the oil and gas industry, has been a hotly debated issue in recent years, especially in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Addresses ‘Service Charges’ Under the Massachusetts Tips Act

Massachusetts is seeing an increase in Tips Act claims, and the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) just reinforced that a lack of clarity in fee- and tip-related documentation may result in employer liability, including mandatory treble damages and attorneys’ fees. The Massachusetts Tips Act requires that an employer or person who collects “service charges” or “tips” (as those terms are defined under the act) remit the proceeds of those charges to service employees and waitstaff in proportion to the services the employees provided to the employer.

First Circuit Upholds Federal Preemption of Massachusetts Wage Act Claims

On June 10, 2021, the First Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal of a plaintiff’s lawsuit alleging, among other things, failure to pay wages under the Massachusetts Wage Act. In Rose v. RTN Federal Credit Union, the First Circuit held that the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA) preempted the plaintiff’s wage claims because she was a member of a union and because her employer, RTN Federal Credit Union, had an existing collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the union that governed her wages and overtime pay.

Massachusetts COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Leave: What Employers Need to Know

On May 28, 2021, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed into law “An Act providing for Massachusetts COVID-19 emergency paid sick leave.” The act requires eligible Massachusetts employers to provide emergency paid sick leave to employees who meet certain criteria, with reimbursement by the Commonwealth.

Massachusetts SJC Rules That Employers May Hold Employees Liable for Violating Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Law

On April 9, 2021, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) ruled that an employee may be liable to his or her employer under the Commonwealth’s unfair and deceptive trade practices statute—which authorizes an award of double or treble damages for willful violations, as well as costs and attorneys’ fees—for actions that the employee engaged in during the course of his or her employment.

First Circuit Weighs in on ADA’s ‘Single Integrated Employer’ Test and Reckless Indifference Standard for Punitive Damages

In Burnett v. Ocean Properties, Ltd., et al., the First Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a jury verdict for the plaintiff in his failure to accommodate claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Maine Human Rights Act (MHRA). The court’s opinion provides a useful reference for the “single integrated employer” test for liability under the ADA. More significantly, it is an important reminder for employers regarding how seriously to evaluate accommodation requests, how promptly to respond to them, and how informed employees should be throughout the process. The First Circuit’s ruling shows that the consequences of failing to adequately respond to accommodation requests could lead to a finding that the employer acted with reckless indifference and is liable for punitive damages.

Massachusetts Appeals Court Reinforces Narrow Interpretation of Public Policy Exception to At-Will Employment

On January 20, 2021, an expanded five-judge panel of the Massachusetts Appeals Court issued its opinion in Terence Meehan v. Medical Information Technology, Inc., No. 19-P-1412, and affirmed a lower court decision granting the employer’s motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s wrongful discharge in violation of public policy claim.

Massachusetts Amends Holiday Premium Pay Law and Tips Act as Part of Economic Stimulus Package

On January 14, 2021, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed into law an economic stimulus bill, H.5250, An Act Enabling Partnerships for Growth, which includes two significant changes to Massachusetts wage and hour laws. First, the new legislation amended the law pertaining to holiday premium pay on New Year’s Day, Columbus Day, and Veterans Day (M.G.L. c. 136 § 16) to phase out the premium pay requirement by 2023. Second, the legislation enacted a sweeping amendment to the Massachusetts Tips Act (M.G.L. c. 149 § 152A) to broaden significantly the definition of “wait staff employee.” These changes will offer significant economic relief to the retail and hospitality industries.

Massachusetts Appeals Court Clarifies Issues Regarding Overtime Compensation Defenses

Employees who claim that their employers misclassified them as exempt from the overtime requirements of Massachusetts law frequently attempt to recover overtime pay for hours worked outside the statute of limitations applicable to statutory overtime claims. In pursuing these claims, employees often argue that the statute of limitations should be tolled because their employers misrepresented their entitlement to overtime pay to them, and/or they assert common law claims that have a longer statute of limitations. In cases where they experience some form of adverse action, employees often also assert a retaliation claim based on vague statements that they made to their employers about their exempt status and compensation. The Massachusetts Appeals Court’s recent decision in Tam v. Federal Management Co., Inc. now makes it more difficult for employees to prevail on any of these arguments.

Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave: Latest Updates Ahead of January 1, 2021, Effective Date

Just as the whirlwind of 2020 winds down, Massachusetts employers are preparing for what is perhaps the most significant legislative update for worker leave in the past five years. On January 1, 2021, the Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave Act (PFML) will begin providing benefits to eligible workers for qualifying reasons. As the effective date approaches, employers may want to be aware of their obligations under the law and the latest guidance issued by the DFML. The DFML will continue to issue guidance as the effective date approaches. Here is an overview of this new leave program along with recent updates and answers to frequently asked questions.

Time to Vote: Employee and Employer Voting Leave Rights and Obligations for the 2020 Elections

Elections in the United States are scheduled for Tuesday, November 3, 2020. Not only will the office of president of the United States be contested, but all 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and 35 of the 100 seats in the U.S. Senate are up for grabs. At the state level, elections will be held for the governorships of 11 U.S. states and 2 U.S. territories.

Massachusetts Federal Court Preliminarily Requires Employer to Allow Employee’s Teleworking

On September 16, 2020, in Peeples v. Clinical Support Options, Inc., No. 3:20-cv-30144, a federal district court in Massachusetts took the unusual step of precluding an employer from discharging an employee who claimed an inability to work in the office due to a disability, and ordered the employer to allow the employee to telework for at least 60 days.

First Circuit Holds FAA Does Not Drive Independent Contractors’ Class Action Wage Claims Case

Recently, and for the first time in more than 20 years, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ruled on the transportation worker exemption contained in Section 1 of the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA). In Waithaka v. Amazon.com, Inc., 966 F.3d 10 (1st Cir. 2020), the court of appeals upheld a district court’s decision not to compel Amazon “AmFlex” delivery drivers (who are independent contractors) to arbitrate their wage claims. The decision is significant for companies that require their delivery drivers to sign arbitration agreements.