Category Archives: Labor & Employment

Department of Family and Medical Leave Provides Additional Guidance on PFMLA Exemptions

The new Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave Act (PFMLA) came into effect on October 1, 2019, requiring employers to begin collecting payroll deductions and matching contributions to be submitted to the state Department of Family and Medical Leave (Department) by the end of January. These contributions, as we have described in previous alerts, will fund family and medical leave pay benefits that will be available to most Massachusetts employees beginning on January 1,… More

U.S. Department of Labor Announces New Overtime Salary Basis Rule

On September 24, 2019, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) unveiled the final version of its new overtime salary basis rule. The new rule increases the minimum salary threshold for salary-based overtime exemptions from $455 per week (or $23,600 annually) to $684 per week (or $35,568 annually). In addition to increasing the salary basis for administrative, executive and professional employees, the new rule allows employers to use nondiscretionary bonuses and incentive payments (such as commissions) to satisfy up to 10 percent of the salary basis level,… More

NLRB Places Further Limitations on “Micro Units”

On September 9, 2019, the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) clarified its standard for reviewing the appropriateness of small bargaining units within larger workforces, sometimes referred to as “micro units.” The ruling gives employers guidance on how the NLRB will apply the so-called “community of interest” standard in such cases and gives the NLRB significant leeway to reject such units.

The NLRB’s decision concerned a bargaining unit at a Boeing Co.… More

UPDATE: EEOC Will Not Collect Pay Data for 2019, 2020 or 2021

As we reported in previous alerts (April 26, 2019 and May 9, 2019), all employers with 100 or more employees must submit employee pay data for 2017 and 2018 to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on an updated Employer Information Report Form (EEO-1) by September 30, 2019. However, this may end up being a one-time requirement. On September 12, 2019, the EEOC announced that it will not be requiring EEO-1 filers to submit pay data for 2019,… More

NLRB Adopts “Contract Coverage” Standard

New Ruling Makes It Easier for Employers to Introduce Workplace Changes During Term of Collective Bargaining Agreement

 

On September 10, 2019, in MV Transportation, Inc., Case No. 28-CA-173726, the National Labor Relations Board adopted a new “unilateral change” rule. The new rule permits employers to make unilateral changes in the workplace during the term of a collective bargaining agreement, without first bargaining with the union representing its employees,… More

Massachusetts PFMLA Update

Department Clarifies that Law Will Not Apply to Properly Classified Independent Contractors

On September 5, 2019, the Massachusetts Department of Paid Family and Medical Leave issued new guidance on when workers who receive 1099-MISC forms will be included in a business’s workforce count under the Paid Family and Medical Leave Act (PFMLA). Prior guidance suggested that all individual 1099-MISC workers in Massachusetts that provided service to a company would be counted.… More

NLRB Rules Misclassification of Employees as Independent Contractors Does Not Violate NLRA

Last week, in Velox Express, Inc., the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) answered what had been a long-standing open question under federal labor law, ruling that the misclassification of employees as independent contractors is not a violation of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). As such, the decision to classify a worker as an independent contractor rather than an employee will not, by itself, subject an employer to liability under the NLRA.… More

MA PFMLA Update: MA Passes Extension Law; Department Issues New Regulations

The past few days saw two major updates to the Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave Act (PFMLA) of which employers should be aware: a three-month extension of various deadlines for employer compliance and the issuance of final regulations under the Act Department of Family and Medical Leave (the “Department”).

As we reported last week, the Governor and Legislature agreed to extend the start date for contributions from July 1,… More

New Employee Benefit Rules Expand Health Reimbursement Arrangement Options for Employers

On June 13, 2019, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Department of Labor and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a new regulation that is intended to increase the use of tax-favored health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) as a means of expanding access to health insurance in the individual insurance market. One likely effect of the new regulation, which will take effect on January 1, 2020, is to make it more likely that small employers will be able to offer greater health insurance options to their employees.… More

Paid Family and Medical Leave Update: Contribution Start Date Delayed

On June 11, 2019, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, Senate President Karen Spilka, and House Speaker Robert DeLeo announced that they agreed to delay the required contributions to the Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) program by three months. This agreement will not be official until the Legislature passes and the Governor signs an emergency bill putting it on the books. If passed, the bill will extend the date when employers need to begin collecting payroll deductions and contributions from July 1,… More

Employers Can Lose Failure-to-Exhaust Defense if Not Timely Raised, Supreme Court Rules

On June 3, 2019, the United States Supreme Court ruled unanimously in Fort Bend County, Texas vs. Davis that Title VII cases can proceed in federal court even if employees fail to first bring their claims before the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or an equivalent state agency (e.g., Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination). The Court’s ruling, however, made clear that employers can continue to protect themselves against new claims,… More

Massachusetts SJC Rules Commission-Only Employees Are Entitled to Overtime, Sunday Pay

Massachusetts law requires that non-exempt employees be paid at least 1.5 times their hourly rate for hours worked beyond the first 40 hours per week, and that certain employees be paid at least 1.5 times their hourly rate for all hours worked on Sundays. However, there has been confusion as to how these laws apply to employees who are paid exclusively by commissions.

Late last week,… More

UPDATE: Employers Must Provide 2017 and 2018 Pay Data to EEOC by September 30, 2019

As mentioned in our most recent alert on the recently revived EEOC pay data rule (available here), the EEOC has been considering whether, in addition to collecting pay data for 2018 under its new pay data collection rule, to collect pay data for 2017 or for 2019. This week, the EEOC chose to collect 2017 data. That means that employers with 100 or more employees now must submit both 2017 and 2018 pay data to the EEOC by September 30,… More

Court Rules that Employers Must Report Pay Data by September 30, 2019

On April 25, 2019, a federal judge in Washington, D.C. set a September 30, 2019 deadline for employers to begin complying with the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) recently revived pay data collection rule. Accordingly, employers with 100 or more employees – more than 60,000 employers – must submit 2018 pay data to the EEOC by September 30, 2019.

As reported in our past alerts (link here),… More

U.S. Department of Labor Issues Proposed Joint Employment Rule

On April 1, 2019, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued a proposed rule that would clarify when two entities may be considered joint employers of an employee for purposes of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), and therefore may be held jointly and severally liable for FLSA violations. The rule comes nearly two years after the DOL withdrew Obama-era guidance broadly interpreting the rules regarding joint employment (see … More

U.S. Department of Labor Issues Proposed New Rule on Regular Rate of Pay for Overtime

Less than a month after proposing an increase to the salary threshold for certain overtime exemptions (see our previous client alert), the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) has announced another possible rule change impacting the way employers pay employees overtime. This new proposed rule would update, for the first time in more than 50 years, rules regarding the types of employee compensation that must be included when calculating an employee’s “regular rate” under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”).… More

U.S. Department of Labor Proposes New Overtime Rule

On March 7, 2019, after more than two years of speculation, the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) finally proposed its new overtime rule. Under the proposed rule, the minimum salary a worker would have to be paid to qualify for the executive, administrative and professional exemptions would increase from $26,660 (or $455 per week) to $35,308 (or $679 per week). The DOL estimates that 1.1 million more employees will be eligible for overtime under the proposed rule.… More

SJC: Employees Who Settled Wage Act Claims Were Entitled to Award of Attorneys’ Fees

On February 19, 2019, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) adopted an employee-friendly standard for determining whether a plaintiff is entitled to an award of attorneys’ fees under the Massachusetts Wage Act where his or her claims are resolved by settlement. In Ferman v. Sturgis Cleaners, Inc., the SJC held that a plaintiff is entitled to an award of attorneys’ fees when his or her suit acted as a necessary or important factor in causing the defendant employer to provide a material portion of the relief in the form of a settlement.… More

SJC Rules Denial of Lateral Transfer May Be “Adverse Employment Action” Under Mass. Anti-Discrimination Law

On January 29, 2019, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) ruled in Yee v. Mass. State Police that an employer’s denial of an employee’s request for a lateral transfer that would have no impact on the employee’s base pay or benefits may constitute an adverse employment action under Massachusetts’ anti-discrimination statute, G.L. c. 151B (“Chapter 151B”). The SJC’s decision expands the scope of employment actions that may be actionable under Chapter 151B.… More

NLRB Overturns Obama-Era Independent Contractor Test

On January 25, 2019, the National Labor Relations Board issued a decision revising the test for independent contractor status under federal labor law. In SuperShuttle DFW, Inc., the Board ruled that the test for determining whether a worker is an independent contractor under the National Labor Relations Act (the “Act”) should focus on the degree of “entrepreneurial opportunity” available to the worker, rather than the worker’s economic dependency on those they serve or the degree of control exercised over the work.… More

MA Employers Subject to New HIRD Reporting Requirement Starting Nov. 30, 2018

In 2017, Massachusetts enacted a supplemental appropriations bill providing for the creation of an employer healthcare coverage form that Massachusetts employers with six or more employees would be required to submit annually. Recently, the Massachusetts Department of Revenue (DOR) released guidance on this new requirement, providing that covered employees will be required to submit a new Health Insurance Responsibility Disclosure (HIRD) form annually starting November 30 of this year.… More

Massachusetts Legislature Passes Non-Compete Reform Bill

After many years of debate, the Massachusetts Legislature passed a comprehensive non-compete reform bill. If Governor Baker signs the bill into law (as is expected), the new law would prohibit employers from requiring that certain types of employees sign non-competition agreements and would establish minimum requirements – largely consistent with existing case law – that non-competition agreements must meet to be enforceable. If signed by the governor, the law will take effect on October 1,… More

Massachusetts Establishes Paid Family Leave and Raises Minimum Wage

Last week, Governor Charlie Baker signed a landmark bill establishing a paid family and medical leave program for Massachusetts workers and gradually increasing the state minimum wage to $15.00 per hour. Described as a “grand bargain,” the bill reflects a compromise between legislators, labor and community groups, and business groups, and is intended to keep proposed ballot questions concerning paid leave, minimum wage, and a sales tax reduction off the November 2018 ballot.… More

Supreme Court Delivers Major Blow to Public Sector Unions

On June 27, 2018, in a 5-4 decision in Janus v. AFSCME, the United States Supreme Court overruled longstanding precedent and held that public employees who are not members of a union elected to be their collective bargaining agent could not be required to pay so-called “agency fees” to that union.  The decision is expected to have significant impact on organized labor, which relies on such fees to fund their activities.… More

NLRB General Counsel Adopts Less Restrictive Policy on Employee Handbook Rules

On June 6, 2018, the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) General Counsel issued a guidance on the agency’s new position on employee handbook rules. Reflecting recent changes in Board law, the guidance issued by NLRB General Counsel Peter Robb indicates that his office has abandoned the broad prohibition on certain workplace rules adopted by his predecessor during the Obama administration and, more broadly, signals that the new General Counsel will take a more employer-friendly approach in interpreting federal labor law.… More

Supreme Court Upholds Class Action Arbitration Waivers

On May 21, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its much-anticipated decision addressing whether employers can include class action waivers in mandatory arbitration agreements that employers often require their employees to sign as a condition of employment. Such waivers require employees to arbitrate employment claims against the employer individually, rather than as a class action or other joint arbitration. Such waivers had been challenged as violating employees’ right to engage in concerted activities under federal labor law.… More

Massachusetts Places Further Restrictions on Criminal Background Checks

In 2010, Massachusetts became one of the first states to pass so-called “ban the box” legislation, which barred employers from asking prospective employees about their criminal histories on their initial employment applications. Now, eight years later, Governor Charlie Baker has signed a sweeping criminal justice reform bill into law that places new restrictions on employer inquiries into an applicant’s criminal history. The new restrictions go into effect on October 13,… More

Supreme Court Adopts More Expansive View of FLSA Exemptions

Since the 1950s, the U.S. Supreme Court has taken the view that the exemptions to the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), which exempt employees from the FLSA’s minimum wage and overtime requirements, should be interpreted narrowly. In its April 2, 2018 decision in Encino Motorcars v. Navarro, however, the Supreme Court reversed course and rejected this principle. As a result, the decision allows courts to give broader interpretations to the FLSA exemptions,… More

Massachusetts Attorney General Releases Guidance on Equal Pay Act

The Massachusetts Attorney General (the “AG”) recently released her long-awaited guidance regarding the 2016 overhaul of the Massachusetts Equal Pay Act (the “Act”), which takes effect on July 1, 2018. (For a summary of the Act’s key provisions, click here.) The Act, which, among other things, prohibits employers from paying employees of different genders differently for comparable work, has left employers with many questions as to how its provisions would be interpreted and enforced.… More

Is “Merit-Based” Immigration Code for Something Else?

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) hosted a DHS stakeholders call entitled “H-1B Cap and Filing Tips Stakeholder Engagementthat I participated in on March 6. It made me think about “merit-based” immigration and how we have not seen movement of any real proposals by the Trump administration – or his supporters in Congress.  I wondered what they have in mind for merit-based immigration and would it actually work for my clients,… More

NLRB Vacates Hy-Brand Joint Employment Liability Standard Because of Board Member Conflict

On February 26, 2018, the National Labor Relations Board vacated its recent ruling in the Hy-Brand Industrial Contractors, Inc. case that had set a new standard for determining joint employer status. The action was not for substantive reasons. Instead, it was due solely to a conflict that arose because one of the Board members who decided the case, William Emanuel, had previously worked for a law firm that had represented a party in the case.… More

Sick Time Not Subject to Massachusetts Wage Act

On January 29, 2018, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) held that accrued, unused sick time does not qualify as “wages” under the Massachusetts Wage Act. As a result, employees cannot maintain Wage Act claims against their employers based on the failure to pay employees for unused sick time.

The Massachusetts Earned Sick Time law does not require that employers pay employees for their accrued,… More

Seismic Business Immigration Policy Shift in the Works for 2018

New changes to H-1B Lottery; H-4 EADs on the chopping block; AC 21 H-1B extensions in trouble; and how to plan for it all
Changes to the H-1B Program and the H-1B Visa Lottery

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) plans to revise the lottery process for the upcoming fiscal year. The announcement may come as early as next month. It proposes a pre-registration system for cap-subject H-1B visa applicants.… More

2017 Immigration Policy Roundup

This year saw significant changes to immigration policy in the United States. Here is a brief roundup of recent developments that companies should continue to monitor in 2018.

The Travel Ban
BACKGROUND

President Trump issued the third revision of his travel ban entitled “Presidential Proclamation Enhancing Vetting Capabilities and Processes for Detecting Attempted Entry into the United States by Terrorists or Other Public-Safety Threats” on September 24,… More

Protect and Grow American Jobs Act: New H-1B Bill Targeted at Dependent Employers

On November 15, 2017, the House Judiciary Committee approved The Protect and Grow American Jobs Act (H.R. 170), which primarily affects “H-1B dependent” employers. The bill revises the definition of a dependent H-1B employer to include all employers which have a workforce that is more than 20% percent H-1B employees (an improvement over the current 15% test). However, if a company qualifies as an H-1B dependent employer,… More

State and Federal Government Move to Enforce Employer Health Care Assessments

On Tuesday, November 7, 2017, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development issued proposed regulations to implement the Employer Medical Assistance Contribution (EMAC) supplemental assessment that was signed into law by Governor Baker this summer. At nearly the same time, the Internal Revenue Service announced that it would begin enforcement of the employer mandate enacted as part of the federal Affordable Care Act. Employers and human resources managers should pay close attention to these developments.… More

President Signs EO Loosening Health Care Regulations

On October 12, 2017, President Trump signed an Executive Order (EO) entitled “Promoting Healthcare Choice and Competition Across the United States.” The much-anticipated EO directs the Departments of Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services to work on drafting rules and guidance to loosen regulations on insurance and to change the way in which individuals and employers purchase insurance in order to achieve three primary objectives:

  • Expand access to “Association Health Plans” (“AHPs”)
  • Expand availability of short-term limited duration insurance (“STLDI”)
  • Expand availability and permitted use of Health Reimbursement Accounts (“HRAs”)

According to the EO,… More

EEOC’s Collection of Pay Data Delayed

On Tuesday, August 29, 2017, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) initiated a review of the EEOC’s pay data collection rule. As a result, the EEOC’s collection of pay data, which was to have begun on March 31, 2018, has been stayed indefinitely.

The EEOC adopted the pay data collection rule in September 2016. Under the rule, employers with 100 or more employees would be required to report employee pay data to the EEOC annually on updated Employer Information Report forms (EEO-1s),… More

Massachusetts SJC Extends Job Protections to Medical Marijuana Users

In a landmark decision, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (“SJC”) ruled on Monday that an employee who is fired for testing positive for marijuana due to her lawful off-duty use of medical marijuana can pursue a claim of handicap discrimination against her former employer. With the ruling, Massachusetts has become the first state to afford such job protections to workers who lawfully use medical marijuana. Moreover, the ruling essentially precludes Massachusetts employers from adopting blanket drug-free workplace policies.… More

New Massachusetts Employer Assessment Intended to Deter MassHealth Enrollment

Since the beginning of this year’s legislative session, Governor Baker has expressed concern over the growth in enrollment in MassHealth, the state’s Medicaid program. A look at the numbers explains why. Prior to the enactment of the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion in 2014, there were 1.3 million people enrolled in MassHealth. By April of this year, that number had increased by 28.4%, to nearly 1.7 million state residents.… More

SJC Rules Wage Act Plaintiffs Are Entitled to Prejudgment Interest, But Not on Treble Damages

Last week, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (“SJC”) resolved a contested issue under the Massachusetts Wage Act, ruling that successful Wage Act plaintiffs are entitled to prejudgment interest on the unpaid wages and other benefits they are awarded. However, the SJC held that employees cannot recover interest on the liquidated damages they are awarded for Wage Act violations.

The SJC’s decision in George, et al.… More

U.S. Department of Labor Signals Coming Changes

On June 27, 2017, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) made two announcements that signal a change of direction for the new Administration. First, the DOL announced in a press release that it would return to its decades-long practice of issuing “opinion letters,” which provide employers formal, written guidance on specific labor law issues. Second, the DOL began the process for seeking public notice and comment on the Obama DOL’s rule increasing the salary threshold for overtime exemptions,… More

DOL Withdraws Obama-Era Guidance on Joint Employment and Independent Contractors

On June 7, 2017, the United States Department of Labor (“DOL”) announced that it is withdrawing the prior Administration’s guidance on joint employment and independent contractors. The Obama Administration had issued Administrator’s Interpretations (“AI”) in 2015 and 2016 that demonstrated its expansive view of who was an “employer” and “employee” for purposes of compliance under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). “Joint employment” had been broadly defined to capture certain relationships between associated companies and companies that use third parties for labor.… More

What NYC Employers Need to Know about New Salary History Law

Earlier this month, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed a bill prohibiting employers from asking job candidates about their salary history. The new law will go into effect on October 31, 2017.

Beginning on October 31, 2017, questions about a job applicant’s previous compensation, and an employer’s reliance on that information in determining an applicant’s compensation, will constitute unlawful discrimination under the New York City Human Rights Law.… More

Federal Courts Block New Travel Ban Executive Order

On March 15, 2017, federal courts in Maryland, Hawaii and Washington heard arguments on motions to preliminarily enjoin the New Executive Order (“New EO”), which was issued by President Trump on March 6, 2017. Judge Derrick K. Watson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii was the first to issue such an order (as described below), which essentially prevents implementation of the New EO’s travel and refugee restrictions.… More

New IRS Memo Concludes Benefits Paid by Fixed-Indemnity Health Plans May Be Taxable Income

On January 20, 2017, the Office of Chief Counsel of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued a Memorandum on the tax treatment of benefits paid by fixed-indemnity health plans. In the Memorandum, the OCC concludes that payments from fixed-indemnity health plans that are not included in the employee’s compensation, such as those that were paid for either by the employer or through salary reduction as part of a section 125 cafeteria plan,… More

Massachusetts Minimum Wage Increases Effective January 1, 2017

A reminder for Massachusetts employers: effective January 1, 2017, the minimum wage in Massachusetts is increasing from $10.00 to $11.00 per hour.

The minimum rate for tipped service employees is also increasing, from $3.35 to $3.75 per hour.  This “service rate” only applies to workers who provide services to customers and regularly receive more than $20 in tips per month.  Additionally, their average hourly tips plus the minimum service rate must equal or exceed the $11.00 per hour minimum wage.  … More

Federal Court Blocks New Overtime Rule

On November 22, 2016, a federal judge in Texas issued a nationwide injunction preventing the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) from implementing its new overtime rule. The rule – which would have raised the salary threshold below which employees must be paid overtime to $47,476/year – was scheduled to go into effect on December 1, 2016. (The firm’s previous client alert on the rule can be found here.) As a result,… More

Massachusetts Enacts New Pay Equity Law

Decorative Scales of JusticeOn August 1, 2016, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed the Pay Equity Act (the “Act”) into law. The Act, which goes into effect on January 1, 2018, is designed to close the wage gap between men and women. Although Massachusetts already had a pay parity law that prohibits wage discrimination, the Act provides greater clarity on what constitutes unlawful pay discrimination and imposes new rules and restrictions on employers.… More

Watch: Labor & Employment Webinar

The past year has been busy in the labor and employment law field. Foley Hoag recently presented a webinar detailing the latest legal developments.

Watch the recording:

:

Topics discussed include:

  • Upcoming changes to the overtime regulations
  • The expansion of the “joint employer” doctrine
  • The increasingly aggressive EEOC
  • Legislative initiatives to change non-compete law
  • Pay equity laws
  • Current issues in immigration laws

Speakers:

State Attorneys General Send Requests for Information on Retailers’ Use of On-Call Shifts

In a continued effort to end the practice of using “on-call shifts,” several state attorneys general, including Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, sent letters last week to 15 national retailers requesting information about their use of “on-call shifts” to staff their businesses.

As we reported last June, AG Schneiderman sent letters seeking similar information about the use of “on-call shifts” to 14 major retailers last year.… More

Smoking Gun Evidence or Just a Responsible HR Professional?

Human resources professional play an important role in the workplace by helping front-line managers to understand the discrimination law. Last week, the Massachusetts Appeals Court issued a decision that could be seen as undermining that role, concluding that notes of a telephone call with a human resource consultant might be evidence of pretext. In Wagner v. Baystate Health Inc., the Appeals Court reversed the grant of summary judgment to the employer on Robert Wagner’s claim that Baystate fired him in retaliation for assisting his wife (who was also a Baystate employee) in filing a claim with the MCAD.… More

Attorney General’s Office Finalizes Regulations on Domestic Workers Bill of Rights

A few months ago, the so-called Domestic Workers Bill of Rights became law in Massachusetts. The law has not garnered a tremendous amount of attention from employment lawyers, presumably because it only covers “household employers,” who employ domestic workers such as nannies or housecleaners. As a management-side employment attorney and the employer of a wonderful nanny, I have been following this law and the development of associated regulations. … More