Welcome to July! As we head deeper into the summer, the employment law world continues to heat up (and we’re not just talking about the record temperatures across the country!). We have rounded up the most recent developments impacting employers here:

The U.S. Supreme Court closed out an epic 2017 term (pun slightly intended) with the issuance of Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis, in which it held that contractual waivers of class arbitration in employment agreements are enforceable. Our colleague Gil Samberg also wrote about the decision over on our sister blog, ADR: Advice from the Trenches. The Court also handed down a significant decision in Janus v. AFSCME, holding that public employees who are not union members cannot be required to pay agency fees to a union even if that union represents them for purposes of collective bargaining. Last but certainly not least, Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement from the bench, effective July 31.

At the state level, both New York and Maryland have recently enacted sweeping legislation in response to the #MeToo movement, which we wrote about here and here. New York employers must ensure that their employment agreements are in compliance with the new law by July 11, 2018. On the heels of the New York Paid Family Leave law, which took effect on January 1, 2018, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker just signed into law a new paid family and medical leave program that is even more generous than the New York law. That law also increases the state minimum wage and eliminates premium pay for Sundays and certain holidays. We outline the parameters of the new law here.

In New York City, the bill requiring employers to grant two temporary schedule changes per year takes effect on July 18th. Finally, in response to the bevy of leave laws that have recently been passed throughout the country, we will be debuting a new blog series addressing issues arising from and relating to leaves of absence. The series will include posts on navigating the ADA, performance and benefits issues for employees on leave, and the interplay between federal and state-specific leave laws. Stay tuned for more and as always, do not hesitate to contact your Mintz Levin ELB team with any questions about compliance with these laws.

Wishing our readers a happy and restful 4th of July!!

On June 28, 2018, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed a law affecting all employers in the Commonwealth by creating a paid family and medical leave program funded by a state payroll tax, increasing the state minimum wage, and eliminating premium pay requirements for work performed on Sundays and certain holidays.

To avoid November ballot questions initiated by multiple interest groups, last week the state legislature passed the “Grand Bargain” legislation addressing these issues, which Governor Baker signed without any changes. The new law has several significant changes in store for employers over the next 5 years.

Continue Reading Massachusetts Governor Signs Law Establishing Paid Family and Medical Leave Program, Increasing Minimum Wage, and Eliminating Sunday/Holiday Premium Pay

“Ban the Box” laws prohibit or limit an employer’s ability to ask a job applicant about his or her criminal record. States, counties and cities have enacted this legislation to help applicants with criminal records combat additional barriers to securing employment. We’ve written about these laws as enacted in New Jersey, Washington, D.C., New York City, and California.

In this post, we’ll provide an overview of the “ban the box” provision in Massachusetts, discussing recent modifications which become effective October 13, 2018 and recent warnings issued by the Attorney General’s Office.

TLDR: All Massachusetts employers should ensure that their application forms and hiring practices comply with the “ban the box” provision.

Continue Reading “Ban the Box” Updates in Massachusetts

With the summer kicking off, it is a good opportunity for employers to review and refresh their employment practices to ensure compliance with developments on the federal, state and legal landscape. This Bubbler Post will review our earlier guidance and (hopefully!) prompt you to review your employment practices:

  • Employment Applications: Equal pay laws have continued to gain traction on the state and local level, and there are a number of jurisdictions banning inquiries into the salary history information of prospective applicants. If you have employees working in the states, counties and/or cities listed below, you should review your application forms and employment documents to ensure that they do not request salary information.
  • Vendor Relationships: Given the pay inquiry laws discussed above, employers should communicate with recruiters and background check companies to ensure that these entities similarly comply with their obligations under applicable law. You can write a letter to your vendors detailing your expectations, you can enter into an amendment to your existing agreement outlining the legal framework, or you can reach out to your vendor contact to discuss the importance of compliance – from both a business and legal perspective – and request that they remove salary history inquiries from their screening process. Whatever you do, be conscious of the potential for joint liability to attach to these claims. Particular provisions to consider are ones regarding compliance with applicable laws and indemnification.

 

  • Employment Agreements: In light of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision holding that employers can enforce class action waivers in arbitration agreements, employers should review and revise their employment agreements to include this language. You can include a class or collective action waiver either by (1) explicitly prohibiting class/collective claims or (2) explicitly requiring that all claims be brought by employees individually and not jointly. Here, we’ve laid out more guidance on this decision’s impact on employers, including factors employers should consider when deciding whether to adopt an arbitration provision with a class waiver and the impact on state law prohibitions on arbitration.

 

  • Employee Trainings: In the wake of the #MeToo movement, workplace professionalism trainings are more relevant than ever. And, in some jurisdictions, they are required. Read more here about the steps New York State and New York City have taken to implement stronger protections against workplace harassment. Employers in other jurisdictions should take note, and perhaps jump on board. While not a complete defense, evidence of thorough and detailed trainings around appropriate workplace conduct can limit liability for an employer defending against a sexual harassment claim. We almost always suggest more training.

 

  • Settlement Agreements: On the federal level, employers should be thoughtful of their obligations under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. Pursuant to a new provision in the tax code overhaul bill – Section 13307 – employers can no longer deduct the taxable income of any sexual harassment settlement amount subject to a non-disclosure agreement. We’ve discussed this here and will continue to track employers’ obligations as additional guidance is issued. In the meantime, employers should tread carefully and make an informed decision about whether to take a tax deduction or include a non-disparagement provision.

In a series of recent posts (available here and here), we discussed the expanded Massachusetts Employer Medical Assistance Contribution (EMAC) requirements, including the adoption of a new EMAC supplemental contribution. Among other things, we explained that the EMAC rules operate in a manner that is fundamentally different from the now repealed “fair share employer contribution” requirement under the 2006 Massachusetts health care reform law. Under that law, employers were obligated to (among other things) obtain signed forms—referred to as Health Insurance Responsibility Disclosure (or “HIRD”) forms. While the HIRD form requirements were repealed effective July 1, 2013, there is now a new HIRD form requirement with which employers will need to contend.

Continue Reading Revenge of the HIRDs—The New Massachusetts Employer Healthcare Coverage Form

The Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) has begun assessing Employer Medical Assistance Contribution (EMAC) supplemental payments for the first quarter. This post proposes a grounds for appealing DUA determinations that would serve employers well: employers that offer affordable, major medical coverage to their employees should not be assessed an EMAC supplement for any full-time employee who has coverage under ConnectorCare. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) makes these employees ineligible for subsidized coverage.

Continue Reading Appealing Massachusetts Employer Medical Assistance Contribution (EMAC) Supplement Determinations Based on ConnectorCare Coverage

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

In a March 30, 2018 Bloomberg BNA article, Mintz Levin Employment, Labor and Benefits attorney Gauri Punjabi discusses Massachusetts’ new protections for pregnant workers and compares them with the existing federal requirements. For the full story, click here. This is an important development in Massachusetts, and one that we expect to expand to other jurisdictions. We’ve written on it here and will continue to track its development for our readers.