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.

First Circuit Rules on Post-employment Restrictions as COVID-19 Restrictions Ease and Employees Return to Work

As employers reopen their businesses following closures or reductions in operations required during the COVID-19 pandemic, many are grappling with the fraught and complex task of bringing laid-off or furloughed employees back to the workplace. Among the many issues that such employers will need to deal with in onboarding those employees is whether and to what extent they will need to renew their restrictive covenants agreements with employees who had such agreements before the pandemic.

Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave: Draft Revisions to Regulations

On May 14, 2020, the Massachusetts Department of Family and Medical Leave (DFML) issued revised draft regulations to accompany the Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) law. The draft regulations come approximately one year after the DFML published “final” regulations and contain many substantive revisions, likely in response to the numerous public sessions held over the past year.

Massachusetts Adopts Four-Phase Approach to Reopening

On May 18, 2020, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker announced details of the Baker-Polito administration’s four-phase approach to reopening Massachusetts and released guidelines and requirements for businesses resuming operations. The process will be data-driven and fluid with the expectation that there will be at least three weeks before the start of each phase.

Massachusetts Nonsolicitation Case Highlights Importance of Choice-of-Law Provisions

Many employers have national and international workforces. When entering into contracts with employees, inclusion of a choice-of-law provision is important for determining what jurisdiction’s laws will apply if one of the parties breaches the agreement. While Massachusetts generally honors contracting parties’ choice as to which law will govern their relationship, there are exceptions to that general rule. In NuVasive, Inc. v. Day, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit enforced a Delaware choice of law provision against a Massachusetts employee and rejected his arguments that one of Massachusetts’s recognized exceptions should apply.

Massachusetts High Court Clarifies Standards for Judicial Review of Anti-Raiding Provisions in Restrictive Covenants

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC), the Commonwealth’s highest court, recently clarified the standards applicable to analyzing nonsolicitation and anti-raid restrictive covenants following the sale of a business—an area of law where state appellate court jurisprudence had been lacking.

Massachusetts Paid Family Medical Leave Quarterly Returns Due by January 31, 2020

Recently, the Massachusetts Department of Revenue (DOR) released guidance on how to report wages paid under the state Paid Family and Medical Leave Law (PFML) for employers’ fourth quarter 2019 PFML return. This guidance was released to ensure covered employers can properly and timely file and remit contributions in advance of the quarterly deadline of January 31, 2020.

New Year, New Minimum Rates: State-by-State Minimum Wage Updates for 2020

In 2020, a number of states’ minimum wage rates will increase. The following chart lists the states’ (and certain major localities’) minimum wage increases for 2020—and future years if available—along with the related changes in the maximum tip credit and minimum cash wage for tipped employees. The federal minimum wage will remain at $7.25 per

Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave Update: Private Plan Exemptions and Reminders on Notice Compliance

The Department of Paid Family and Medical Leave (DFML) continues to issue updates concerning compliance with the Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave Law (PFML). The DFML’s most recent updates address private plan exemptions and how the DFML has reevaluated and revised its internal review process to more efficiently evaluate these applications.

Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave: Update on 1099-MISC Workers and State-Provided Training

The deadlines for notice to employees and contribution withholdings required by the Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave Act (PFML) are fast approaching, and employers are encouraged to make sure that they are prepared. Ahead of these important deadlines, the Department of Family and Medical Leave (DFML) continues to announce updated guidance on the program.

Massachusetts Update: Paid Family and Medical Leave Contributions

Following the recently announced three-month delay to notice and contribution requirements, and the announcement of updated template notices and final regulations, the Massachusetts Department of Family and Medical Leave (DFML) continues to issue updated guidance on the practical implementation of the Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave Law.

State-Law Ramifications of the Supreme Court’s Decision in Fort Bend County, Texas v. Davis: Massachusetts and Rhode Island as Case Studies

In Fort Bend County, Texas v. Davis, the Supreme Court of the United States held that the requirement in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act that an employee file a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission before commencing an action in court is not jurisdictional.

Taking Vacation While on Medical Leave: Massachusetts Court Rules on Liquidated Damages Under the FMLA

On June 5, 2019, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) issued a decision emphasizing that an employer’s well-designed and thorough internal investigations made prior to a termination decision can provide a strong defense to claims, but less carefully conducted investigations do not.