Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave Update: Template Notices for Employees, Extension of Deadlines, and Requested Guidance From the IRS

Here is the latest information on the Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave Act (PFML) requirements since our last report on April 17, 2019. As the date for issuing final regulations and starting employer contributions draws near, the Department of Family and Medical Leave (DFML) continues to publish updates.

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.

Supreme Court Concludes “Wholly Groundless” Exception Is Inconsistent With Federal Arbitration Act

On January 8, 2019, the Supreme Court of the United States decided whether courts may disregard contractual language calling for an arbitrator to decide questions of arbitrability if the argument that the arbitration agreement applies to the particular dispute is “wholly groundless.” The Court ruled that a “wholly groundless” exception is inconsistent with the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), and courts are not free to override the terms of parties’ agreements to arbitrate.

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.     

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.

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 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.

Renewed Life for Potential Legislative Restrictions on Noncompetition Agreements in Massachusetts?

On March 2, 2016, Massachusetts House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo announced that he supported legislative restrictions on employee noncompetition agreements. Speaker DeLeo’s statements, made in a speech to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, may be a turning point in the long-running debate in Massachusetts over whether noncompetes should be banned or restricted through legislation.