Non-compete reform has come to Massachusetts, with wide-ranging legal and practical implications for any employers with workers in Massachusetts. Employers have just six weeks to consider and adopt a new approach to non-compete agreements for their workforces. The new law, which becomes effective on October 1, 2018, comes after many years of debate and dramatically shifts the restrictive covenant legal landscape in the Commonwealth.

While employers will still be able to utilize non-compete agreements for most workers, the law necessitates a new approach to drafting, implementing, and enforcing these agreements. This post summarizes the new law, identifies employer action items, and raises several issues that will emanate from this reform.

Brief Summary of the New Law:

The key takeaways of the law are as follows:

  • Non-compete agreements will be more expensive to utilize. Employers must offer the employee paid “garden leave” for the length of the restricted period of at least 50% of the employee’s highest base salary during the prior two (2) years (or some “other mutually-agreed upon consideration,” which the agreement must specify);
  • Employers cannot require all employees to sign non-compete agreements. The law prohibits employers from requiring certain categories of workers, including non-exempt employees, to enter into non-compete agreements;
  • Non-compete agreements may be void depending on the reason for separation. Employers cannot enforce non-compete restrictions against employees who have been terminated without cause or laid off, except when included as part of a separation agreement;
  • The new law only applies to agreements entered into on or after October 1, 2018. Older agreements are not voided, but employers should consider revisiting the current agreements in place. We address this issue further below;
  • Continued employment is no longer sufficient consideration. Employers must provide fair and reasonable consideration to support non-compete agreements signed after employment has commenced;
  • The non-compete agreement must be reasonably tailored. A non-compete agreement must: (i) be limited to a maximum one (1) year non-compete period (subject to a limited exception discussed further below); (ii) protect statutorily covered employer interests (i.e. trade secrets); and (iii) cover a geographical scope that is reasonable in relation to the employer’s protectable interests;
  • The new law applies to employees and independent contractors alike. The new law specifically defines employee to include contractors and will also require employers to retool those agreements to the extent they include non-compete provisions; and
  • The law does not apply to all agreements with restrictive covenants. The law does not cover non-solicitation agreements, non-disclosure agreements, and separation agreements (among others discussed below), which means that these agreements will continue to be analyzed under the common law, but now against the backdrop of the new public policy on non-compete restrictions.

Taken together, while many of the law’s provisions reflect best practices for enforceable non-compete agreements, several of the requirements – particularly around the requisite consideration supporting non-compete agreements – will now require employers to evaluate their overall non-compete strategy, update their non-compete agreements, and adjust their human resources processes to ensure compliance with the law.

Below we explore the law in greater detail and highlight the practical and legal implications for employers.

Continue Reading New Massachusetts Non-Compete Law Goes Into Effect October 1, 2018

In a series of blog posts going back to last August, we reported on certain amendments to the Massachusetts Employer Medical Assistance Contribution (EMAC) rules. As we previously explained, the EMAC contributions are required of employers with more than five employees in Massachusetts. Last year’s amendments increased the basic EMAC annual fee to $77 per employee from $51 per employee and added a new, supplemental penalty of up to $750 for each non-disabled worker who receives health insurance coverage through MassHealth or who opts out of employer-provided coverage and instead receives subsidized coverage from the Massachusetts Health Connector (i.e., the Commonwealth’s Affordable Care Act marketplace). While the EMAC penalties seemed relatively innocuous when viewed in isolation, the actual amounts of the supplemental payments turned out in many cases to be substantial. Small employers are being particularly hard hit.

Continue Reading Massachusetts Legislature Proposes Limited Relief for Employer Medical Assistance Contribution (EMAC) Supplemental Payments

 

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

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

This week, the California Supreme Court rejected the old “totality of circumstances” test to determine if a worker was properly classified as an independent contractor in favor of a new “ABC test” under which employers will be required to classify most workers as employees.

Continue Reading California Rewrites the Independent Contractor Test – What Your Business Needs To Do Now to Pass It

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.