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.
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.
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.
The Massachusetts Department of Family and Medical Leave (DFML) continues to issue, update, and consolidate guidance on the Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave Act (PFML). Here is a summary of additional guidance released by the DFML in early 2022, which further updates our 2021 year-end article.
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.
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.
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.
The Massachusetts Department of Family and Medical Leave (DFML) has continued to issue guidance and clarifications regarding the Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave Act (PFML) since the law went into effect in January 2021.
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.
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 are unable to work for COVID-19–related reasons.
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 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.
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.
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.
States have been busy when it comes to marijuana laws. Before the mid-2010s, employers tended not to worry about state marijuana laws because of marijuana’s illegal status under federal law. However, those days are over, and state marijuana legalization laws continue to affect how employers can run their workplaces.
On March 30, 2021, in Bossé v. New York Life Insurance Co. et al., the First Circuit Court of Appeals issued an important decision upholding the enforceability of an arbitration agreement that delegates the arbitrability of claims to an arbitrator, and not a court.
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.
Mandatory arbitration clauses for employment disputes have received a great deal of attention in recent years. In the First Circuit, there is now more clarity regarding the factors used to determine the enforceability of online arbitration agreements.
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.
Over 1,500 COVID-19–related employment lawsuits were filed in the United States in 2020. Ogletree Deakins’ Interactive COVID-19 Litigation Tracker highlights the industries impacted, locations, and types of claims in these matters.
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.
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.
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.
Several states’ minimum wage rates will increase in 2021. The following chart lists the state (and certain major locality) minimum wage increases for 2021—and future years, if available—along with the related changes in the maximum tip credit and minimum cash wage for tipped employees.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.