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.
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.
Massachusetts employers with 6 or more employees will soon be required to prepare and file a new health care reporting form referred to as the “healthcare coverage form.” While reminiscent of the now repealed “Health Insurance Responsibility Disclosure” or “HIRD” form requirement, the new form differs significantly. This post explains this new reporting rule.
As we reported in a previous post, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker in August 2017 signed into law H. 3822, “An Act Further Regulating Employer Contributions to Health Care” (the “Act”). Among other things, the law increases the Employer Medical Assistance Contribution (“EMAC”) and also imposes a tax penalty—or “EMAC supplement”—on Massachusetts employers with more than five employees. The supplement is 5% of a covered employee’s unemployment insurance taxable wages up to the $15,000 per year (i.e., a cap of $750 per covered employee) for each nondisabled employee who receives health insurance coverage through the Massachusetts Division of Medical Assistance (i.e., MassHealth) or subsidized insurance through the Massachusetts Health Insurance Connector Authority (i.e., ConnectorCare).
The EMAC supplement take effect as of January 1, 2018. The Massachusetts Division of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) previously issued a draft regulation, which we discussed in our post of November 20, 2017. The DUA has now issued a final regulation, which is the subject of this post.
Last year New York State made significant changes to its wage orders resulting in increases to the State’s minimum wage, white collar overtime exemption salary thresholds, tip, meal and lodging credits, and uniform allowances. The latest changes go into effect on December 31, 2017. We quickly summarize the minimum wage and overtime salary threshold changes below, but urge you to visit our prior post here for more in-depth coverage, including best practices for compliance.
Many state legislatures spent 2017 tinkering with post-employment covenants. Given the growing trend to legislate locally and the employee mobility issues that seem to nag every employer, we thought the New Year would be a perfect time to review and revisit your post-employment covenants. So for our multi-jurisdictional employers (which seems to be everyone these days), how do your post-employment covenants legally measure up?
This past year, a growing number of states and municipalities banished the Ghost of Christmas Past from haunting job applicants. As a result, employers in those jurisdictions must resolve now to bid auld lang syne to asking applicants about their salary and criminal histories. Employers should take a fresh look at their job applications, and hiring practices, policies and procedures and update them now to remain in compliance in the New Year.
As we count down to the fast-approaching New Year, one of the most significant changes taking place for employers in New York is the implementation of the New York Paid Family Leave law, which takes effect on January 1, 2018. We previously posted a comprehensive guide for employers on the steps they need to take in advance of January 1st to prepare for the implementation of Paid Family Leave, and for those who have not yet tackled this item, it is not too late!
New York Paid Family Leave
New York’s Paid Family Leave law will be phased in over four years, from 2018 to 2022. When fully implemented, the law will allows employees to take up to 12 weeks of job-protected paid family leave to:
- care for a family member (including a child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, spouse or domestic partner) with a serious health condition;
- bond with the employee’s newborn or newly-placed adoptive or foster child during the first 12 months following birth or placement; or
- address any qualifying exigency relating to a spouse, domestic partner, child or parent who is serving on active military duty.
The law is essentially structured as an additional insurance policy that employers will now be required to provide to employees. In many cases, this policy will be a rider to an employer’s existing disability insurance policy. The law is funded through employee contributions made via payroll deductions at the rate of 0.126% of an employee’s wages, up to an annual maximum of $85.56.
For those employers who have not yet focused in on their compliance obligations, and to prepare for implementation as we enter the New Year, we have put together a brief checklist of steps employers should take now to be ready come January 1st:
- Employers should immediately contact their insurance carriers to arrange for Paid Family Leave coverage.
- If you aren’t already deducting PFL contributions, employers should coordinate with their payroll departments and/or payroll vendors to arrange for deductions to be made beginning on January 1.
- Employers must update their written materials including their employee handbook and/or other written guidance to include necessary information about Paid Family Leave and to integrate this new leave entitlement with their other impacted leave policies.
- Employers should post the Notice of Compliance [PFL 120] received from their insurance carrier in a conspicuous place.
- Employers should identify employees who will not be eligible for Paid Family Leave and inform them that they can choose to waive coverage. Distribute and collect waivers from non-eligible employees.
- Post or distribute the Statement of Rights for Paid Family Leave when an employee takes Paid Family Leave or takes time off from work for a Paid Family Leave qualifying event, even if they have not requested Paid Family Leave.
- Train managers to recognize Paid Family Leave requests and to alert Human Resources, and train Human Resources on how to process requests, including distribution and completion of appropriate paperwork and tracking leave.
While this may sound like a lot to do, rest assured that we have been helping employers through all stages of managing and implementing this new policy.
California Expands Protections with New Parent Leave Act
For those employers with employees in California, the New Year brings new developments on the family leave front as well. While California employers with 50 or more employees continue to be covered by the California Family Rights Act and the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, as of January 1, 2018, the newly-enacted New Parent Leave Act will expand those protections to smaller employers. The new law requires California employers with 20 to 49 employees within a 75-mile radius to provide up to 12 weeks of job-protected unpaid parental leave to employees.
The law covers employees with more than 12 months of service with the employer and at least 1,250 hours of service during the previous 12-month period, and permits leave to be taken for a single purpose: “to bond with a new child within one year of the child’s birth, adoption, or foster care placement.” The 12 weeks of leave provided by the New Parent Leave Act is in addition to the up to 4 months of pregnancy disability leave (PDL) available to employees working for an employer covered by the California PDL law, i.e. employers with five or more employees. You can find more information on the New Parent Leave Act in our previous post.
Introducing … Protected Weekends
Need a vacation after implementing all these changes to the family leave laws? Well, a few employers have tossed around the idea of a protected weekend. While novel, some companies are beginning to require that employees take vacation and at least some time off on the weekends. Both Citigroup and JP Morgan have recently implemented a “Protected Weekend” day on which employees may not come into the office or log on remotely to work – however, they can monitor their emails in case any critical issues arise. We will keep watching for developments in this area as companies that have adopted these policies begin to accumulate data regarding their effectiveness.