The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court recently ruled in Mui v. Massachusetts Port Authority that payment for accrued, unused sick time is not a “wage” under the state wage act, M.G.L. c. 149, s. 148, and therefore a failure to pay for sick time upon a termination of employment is not subject to the Act’s treble damages and other remedies. Importantly, the state’s highest court also reinforced its position that it is not inclined to expand the reach of the Wage Act to types of compensation beyond the express language of the statute.
Now that January has come to an end, and we’ve navigated compliance with our own resolutions and employment obligations (as discussed on our latest post on The Bubbler), we’re going to take a look at a few topics of legislation that are brewing on the state and local level. While federal law does not govern these areas, the activity within state and local governments should catch all of our attention, particularly as employers with operations in multiple states deal with the overlapping (and, at times, seemingly in conflict) provisions of these various laws. These will, quite undoubtedly, continue to expand.
On January 12, 2018, the Maryland Senate joined the Maryland House in voting to override Governor Hogan’s veto of House Bill 1, the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act, which requires employers to provide paid sick and safe leave to hundreds of thousands of Maryland workers. The bill was enacted upon the Senate’s override and will become effective on February 11, 2018, unless the General Assembly passes emergency legislation that was introduced on January 23, 2018 to delay implementation of the law by an additional 60 days.
This emergency bill is designed to give both employers and state administrative agencies more time to implement the law’s requirements. It is not yet known whether there are enough votes to delay implementation of the sick and safe leave law, but we will continue to provide updates on the status of this bill in the coming days.
The sick and safe leave law requires employers with 15 or more workers to allow them to earn up to five days per year of paid leave, which employees may use for their own illnesses or to attend to issues related to domestic violence or sexual assault. Employers with fewer than 15 employees would be required to allow workers to earn the same amount of unpaid leave. We will update this post when more information becomes available.
Did you get your first request for paid family leave yet? Well it’s finally here – New York State’s Paid Family Leave law finally touched down in workplaces across the state on New Year’s Day. As of this writing, millions of New York employees are now entitled to eight weeks of paid family leave benefits and the job protection rights that come along with it. This is a significant development for the State, legally and culturally. Employers have spent many months preparing (and we’ve spent many months helping them prepare) for the new law’s arrival and now it’s time to execute on those implementation plans.
We wrote extensively about the new law and its interpreting regulations here. We encourage you to read or revisit that post as it serves as a guide for employers seeking to comply with the new law. For specific questions, please feel free to contact us directly. And stay tuned as we will be updating this blog with new developments in the coming months. In the meantime, for those of you who are getting a bit of a late start, here is a brief summary of the new entitlement and what is required to comply.
2017 is in the books and 2018 is now upon us. A dramatic close to 2017 on Capitol Hill ushered in sweeping changes to the tax code that will begin to impact both employers and employees in a number of ways – some more immediately – from employers losing deductions for sexual harassment settlement payouts, to penalties for high nonprofit executive compensation, to tax deferral on exercise of stock options for public company executives, to employee benefit plans. Wage and leave-related issues are also likely to dominate in 2018, as more states (and employers on their own initiative) increase wage thresholds and broaden employee paid and unpaid leave entitlements (even for some smaller employers). Salary history bans, such as those already enacted in New York City, Massachusetts, and California, will continue to get traction in 2018 as more states and municipalities jump on that bandwagon. We also expect to continue to witness a significant shift in the NLRB’s enforcement policy and decision-making; the NLRB’s new General Counsel has already announced a number of changes that are sure to make employers sigh with relief. Also in 2018, employers could continue to face rising uncertainty with respect to health plans in the wake of the tax bill’s repeal of the individual mandate that was central to keeping health plans affordable under the Affordable Care Act. Finally, so that we can help keep you accountable to the five New Year’s resolutions we made for you over the holidays (that we know you were eager to adopt as your own), we have collected them for you here: (1) review and refresh your non-harassment policies and training; (2) update your leave policies; (3) make sure your job applications comply with new state ban-the-box laws and salary history inquiry bans; (4) assess the strength and enforceability of your post-employment covenants under changing state law; and (5) make sure your employee benefit plans are compliant.
The Paid Family Leave Act will provide, when fully implemented, employees in the state of New York with up to 12 weeks of job-protected paid family leave to (1) care for a family member (including a child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, spouse or domestic partner) with a serious health condition; (2) bond with the employee’s newborn or newly-placed adoptive or foster child during the first 12 months following birth or placement; or (3) address any qualifying exigency relating to a spouse, domestic partner, child or parent who is serving on active military duty. The Act will be funded by employee contributions and, when fully implemented, the employee will be entitled to income replacement of up to 2/3rds of the state average weekly salary.
January 1, 2018 was established as the date upon which benefit payments begin but the Act allowed employers to begin taking deductions as of July 1, 2017 to offset the cost of acquiring the mandated insurance policies.
The New York State Workers’ Compensation Board recently revised its proposed regulations (described in our previous blog post here) to the law. The revisions were in response to over 100 written comments. Here is a quick summary of those revisions:
Today we continue with our Year in Review segment, which looks at the key labor & employment law developments from 2016 in New York, the DC Metro Area, Massachusetts, and California, while offering our thoughts about 2017. Today we turn to the DC Metro Area. 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.
The District of Columbia, Maryland (including Montgomery County) witnessed an active 2016 with respect to new and amended workplace laws that impose additional responsibilities on employers, and expand employee rights and avenues of enforcement. Employers should be aware of these new requirements and take immediate action to comply with them. We highlight below the most significant updates in both D.C. and Maryland; there were no changes or additions of significance in Virginia.
The New York State Workers’ Compensation Board is out with proposed regulations providing guidance to employers, insurance carriers and employees regarding their rights and responsibilities under New York’s new Paid Family Leave law, which is scheduled to go into effect January 1, 2018. Comments on the proposed rules will be accepted for 45 days – until April 8th (although we note that’s a Saturday). For our earlier post on the enactment of the Paid Family Leave Act, see here.
The growing prevalence of the Zika virus in the United States has already presented a number of hurdles for employers striving to create a safe and healthy workplace environment for their employees. These concerns are more immediate than ever. The recent and continuing outbreak in Florida and the emergence of state-to-state transmission within the U.S. reinforce the need for employers to stay informed of best practices for minimizing workplace health risks without overstepping critical legal boundaries between employer and employee.
Earlier this month Governor Cuomo signed into law New York’s Paid Family Leave Act, which, when fully implemented, will provide virtually all employees in the state up to 12 weeks of paid family leave. Under the law, employees will be entitled to paid leave to (1) care for a family member (including a child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, spouse or domestic partner) with a serious health condition, (2) bond with the employee’s newborn or newly placed adoptive or foster child during the first 12 months following birth or placement, or (3) address any qualifying exigency relating to a spouse, domestic partner, child or parent who is serving on active military duty. Notably, the law relies on employee payroll deductions to fund the paid family leave benefit, but does not require any similar contribution from employers.
The law also provides job protections, entitling an employee who returns from leave to be restored to the same or a comparable position. Additionally, employers must maintain existing health benefits for employees while they are on family leave. While these protections track closely with the family leave provisions of the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, New York’s law covers a broader group of employees than the FMLA, albeit only for family leave. It does not provide an employee paid leave to care for his or her own medical condition.