Lots to talk about in the Labor & Employment world!  The Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act went into effect on April 1, 2018, imposing stricter non-discrimination rules on employers of pregnant workers. The U.S. Department of Labor launched the Payroll Audit Independent Determination program, which encourages employers to self-report wage and hour violations. The Sixth Circuit issued a decision in EEOC v. R.G. & R.G. Harris Funeral Homes, holding that transgendered employees are protected under Title VII, even mounted against an employer’s religious objections under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  The Commonwealth of Massachusetts lost a step in the legal challenge to the contraceptive mandate exemptions in the Affordable Care Act, on the grounds that it did not have standing to assert the relief it sought. Still on the federal landscape, Congress added an amendment to the FLSA in the recent omnibus budget bill, providing that an employer may not keep tips received by its employees for any purpose. The Supreme Court issued an important ruling holding that service advisors are exempt from the FLSA’s overtime requirements and rejecting the principle that FLSA exemptions should be narrowly construed.   The State of Washington followed suit with many other states, including California, New York, and Massachusetts, becoming the most recent state to add an updated Equal Pay Act, and a “Ban the Box” law.  In the wake of the #MeToo movement, Washington also barred nondisclosure agreements in sexual harassment suits.  As always, stay tuned for further updates and more details on these developments which we will be covering more extensively here in the coming weeks, including a post on the Massachusetts Pay Equity Act coming up later this week.

Finally, there’s still time! Don’t forget to register to attend our Fourth Annual Employment Law Summit on April 19.

Back in July 2016, the Massachusetts legislature passed an Act to Establish Pay Equity (Mass. Gen. Laws c. 149 § 105A, referenced herein as the “Law”), which amends the Massachusetts Equal Pay Act (“MEPA”) and serves to bolster gender-based pay inequity protections provided to employees and to generally address gender pay inequality in the Commonwealth. When the Law goes into effect on July 1, 2018, it will be widely-regarded as one of the most expansive pay equity laws in the United States.

On March 1, 2018, the Massachusetts Attorney General issued long-anticipated guidance on the amendments to MEPA, available here (the “Guidance”), which provides useful information and insight to employers, including several concrete examples and guidelines designed to assist employers in evaluating their existing policies and complying with the updated MEPA.

This post reviews the key provisions of the Law against the backdrop of the new Guidance, and offers strategies and tips to help employers proactively plan for the Law.

Continue Reading Massachusetts Attorney General Issues Guidance on Pay Equity Law

On Monday, for the second time in less than a year, a federal appeals court ruled that Title VII forbids sexual orientation discrimination because it is a form of sex discrimination.  This time, in Zarda v. Altitude Express, Inc. the Second Circuit overturned decades of precedent and ruled that Title VII’s ban on discrimination “because of . . . sex” encompasses discrimination based on sexual orientation.   The decision is also an apparent rebuke of the position taken by the United States Department of Justice (contrary to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s position) that sexual orientation discrimination was never intended to by Congress to be covered by Title VII.  The issue is almost certainly headed to the Supreme Court in its next term.

Continue Reading Second Circuit Becomes the Second to Prohibit Sexual Orientation Discrimination

Welcome (almost) to the New Year: a time of renewal, a fresh start, a clean slate, and a time to make and hopefully keep resolutions. A “New Year’s Resolution” is, of course, a commitment in the coming year to change an undesired trait or behavior, to accomplish a goal or otherwise make a material improvement.

Toward this end, we thought it appropriate to launch a mini-series of some compliance-related resolutions employers might consider for 2018. In fact, we can’t think of a better way to close out 2017 than with a series devoted to a collective resolution to make 2018 a year devoted to cleaning out the cobwebs and achieving (better) employment law compliance.

We recognize, given the complexity of our legal landscape and the challenges of managing human relationships in the workplace, complete employment compliance is a worthy but perhaps unattainable goal. But that doesn’t mean 2018 can’t begin on the right foot.

We thought it appropriate to start our resolutions mini-series with this headline: Don’t let your workplace BE the next headline.

Continue Reading An Employer’s Resolutions for the New Year – A Mini-Series from the Employment Matters Blog. Resolution #1: Don’t let your Workplace be the Next Headline: Review and Refresh your Non-Harassment Policies and Training.

Recent cases in New York and Pennsylvania demonstrate that, at least in some jurisdictions and under some circumstances, a plaintiff can state a valid claim for unlawful gender discrimination based on a spouse’s jealousy.

Continue Reading Spousal Jealousy Can Lead to a Viable Claim of Unlawful Gender Discrimination

As we recently blogged about here, efforts to ban inquiries related to applicants’ salary history have gained momentum across the country. Last Friday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio joined this trend by signing into law a bill prohibiting New York City employers from inquiring about prospective employees’ salary history. When it takes effect on October 31, 2017, the law will prohibit employers from communicating “any question or statement to an applicant, an applicant’s current or prior employer, or a current or former employee or agent of the applicant’s current or prior employer, in writing or otherwise, for the purpose of obtaining an applicant’s salary history, or to conduct a search of publicly available records or reports for the purpose of obtaining an applicant’s salary history.” “Salary history” includes the applicant’s current or prior wage, benefits or other compensation.

Continue Reading Update on New York City Legislation Limiting Salary History Inquiries

We had such a spirited panel discussion on pay equity at our Third Annual Employment Law Summit recently that we wanted to follow up with a post addressing the current state of play on pay equity legislation, particularly with respect to salary history disclosure laws. This is a rapidly advancing area of the law in which we continue to see new developments.

Continue Reading Legislation Limiting an Employer’s Ability to Inquire About and Consider Applicants’ Prior Salary History Gains Momentum

The basketball court isn’t the only place you’ll see interesting uniforms this month.  Many employers choose to implement and enforce their own uniform requirements and dress codes at work.  But if done incorrectly, uniforms or dress codes may reinforce stereotypical gender roles and put transgender employees and applicants in a very uncomfortable place.  In addition, some religious people in the workplace require exceptions to uniform requirements and dress codes in order to adhere to their beliefs.  There was even a hotly debated Supreme Court opinion a couple years ago about a religious headwear exception to an employer’s dress code.  These increasing changes in the law are forcing employers to take a time out to rethink their uniform and dress code strategies to make sure they do not travel out of bounds.

uniform

Continue Reading March A-Wear-Ness: Uniforms, Dress Codes, and Employee Choice

March Madness isn’t the only thing we are excited about over here at Employment Matters. Right on the heels of the tournament, we will be hosting our annual Employment Law Summit. One of the issues my colleague Andrew Bernstein will address with a panel of key players is pay equity. No, not play equity – pay equity.

Continue Reading Mintz Levin 3rd Annual Employment Law Summit – Advancing the Ball on Pay Equity

Today we offer our last installment in our 2016 Year in Review segment, which will cover the key labor & employment law developments from 2016 in California. Prior installments for the DC Metro Area, New York and Massachusetts are available here.  In addition, please join us in NYC on April 6, 2017 for Mintz Levin’s Third Annual Employment Law Summit as we address some of the key labor & employment issues impacting employers in 2017.  Register here.

In 2016 employers in California had to adjust to compensation and benefits related changes such as a new state minimum wage, a new method of calculating compensation for “piece-rate employees,” and expanded “kin care” benefits. The California Fair Pay Act, aimed at addressing gender wage discrimination also went into effect, modifying existing laws in a few key ways. The legislature also amended California’s Private Attorneys General Act to grant employers a few new ways to “cure” violations.

In 2017 employers should ensure they are complying with “all gender” bathroom requirements and that when making hiring decisions they do not rely on “juvenile offense history.” Employers should also be aware that there is a trend for cities and/or counties to further limit the kinds of information employers may consider in making hiring decisions. Also on the horizon is the probability that the legislature will revisit a new unpaid parental leave law that would impact smaller businesses.

Continue Reading 2016 California Employment Law Year In Review