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#MeToo at MCAD

May 13, 2019 Leave a comment

AET Headshot Photo 2019 (M1344539xB1386)By: Amanda Thibodeau

The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) recently released its 2018 Annual Report. This Report ­­­features data and other important information about the MCAD’s operations and mission during that calendar year.

According to the 2018 Annual Report, sexual harassment claims filed with the MCAD increased 400 percent in January and February 2018 compared to those months in previous years. As the year went on, however, the number of new sexual harassment filings slowed.

While the Annual Report stops short of theorizing the reasons behind this drop off, the causes may be two-fold. The media coverage of the #MeToo movement, which gained notoriety in the fall of 2017, began to dwindle through late 2018. This decrease in intense media spotlight may have contributed to the number of potential claimants coming forward.

Another more hopeful reason could be that employers became more proactive on sexual harassment issues. The Annual Report noted that the MCAD received an “overwhelming” number of requests for sexual harassment prevention training during early 2018. The result may be that employers are taking stronger and more appropriate positions to both prevent sexual harassment and halt it when it occurs.

But a word of caution: Employers would be reckless to use these statistics as a reason to get lax in their sexual harassment trainings, policies, and procedures. While the media coverage of #MeToo may have faded, protecting employees from harassment is still an ongoing concern. Sexual harassment claims often present significant economic costs to the employer, which could include legal costs, emotional distress damages, and punitive damages. This is on top of the now very significant non-economic and reputational costs for employers which often include being distracting for employees, causing high public damage, and fostering an environment of distrust of leadership when not handled appropriately.

Employers should be conducting at least annual sexual harassment trainings for their workforce, as well as for new hires. Employers should also make sure their handbooks are up to date and lay out a clear and effective procedure for the reporting and handling of harassment claims. These policies should not live in a vacuum and should be re-visited from time to time and adjusted. Most importantly, employers cannot and must not retaliate against employees who raise concerns or file formal complaints.

Do not wait for an incident to take these steps. It is important to open a dialogue among all levels of employees, and set the expectations and values for the employer from the start. When employees feel protected and heard, the employer puts itself in a better position to effectively and appropriately handle harassment claims, and hopefully prevent them altogether.

For more information on the prevention and handling of harassment claims, please contact Matthew Mitchell or Amanda Thibodeau.

Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave Update: Department EXTENDS Deadlines for Employee Notice and Private Plan Compliance Obligations 

May 3, 2019 Leave a comment

MLM Headshot Photo 2019 (M1341570xB1386)By: Matthew Mitchell

As we have reported, although the employee benefits provisions of the Massachusetts Paid Medical and Family Leave Law (the “PFML”) do not go into effect until 2021, employer compliance obligations under the PFML were scheduled to start as early as the spring of 2019.  In an effort to address employer concerns related to the roll-out of the PFML, on May 1, 2019, the Massachusetts Department of Family and Medical Leave (the “Department”), the state agency charged with administering the PFML, extended employer deadlines with respect to two key compliance hurdles: (i) Private Plan Exemption Applications; and (ii) Employee Notice Requirements.

A description of these specific compliance obligations, and the new deadlines that apply to them, are as follows:

Private Plan Exemptions

As we have previously reported, the PFML establishes a publically-administered, paid family and medical leave benefits program in Massachusetts (the “Program”).  Commencing in 2021, workers who qualify for PFML leave are entitled to certain insurance payments, distributed from a state-administered Family and Employment Security Trust Fund (the “Fund”), and financed through payroll tax contributions.  In order to “pre-finance” the Program, on July 1, 2019, employers must begin to make contributions to the Fund, through payroll deductions, at certain defined rates.

The PFML does, however, provide to carve to the payroll contribution requirement: Employers that offer a private medical and family leave plan to their employees, with the same or greater benefits as the PFML, may apply for an exemption from the payroll contribution requirements of the Program. The Department, through MassTaxConnect, began accepting private plan exemption applications on April 21, 2019.

As originally instructed by the Department, in order to be relieved from the payroll contribution requirement for the initial July 2019 – September 2019 quarter, employers were required to obtain private plan exemption approval before June 30, 2019.  In order to permit employers additional time to explore private plan options, the Department has extended the date to apply for a private plan exemption for this initial quarter to September 20, 2019.

The Department will continue to accept applications, on a rolling basis, after the September 20, 2019 deadline. However, if an exemption application is approved after September 20, 2019, the employer will remain responsible for remitting payroll contributions for the July 2019 – September 2019 quarter, with the exemption becoming effective in calendar quarter after the application is approved.

Employee Notice Requirements

The PFML requires that employers provide clear and advance notice, to their workforces, of the rights provided under the law. This requirement includes: (a) providing employees and independent contractors with so-called “Written Information Notices;” and (b) posting approved Workplace Posters.

On April 17, 2019, the Department published template Written Information Notices and Workplace Posters forms here (https://www.mass.gov/info-details/informing-your-workforce-about-paid-family-and-medical-leave). A deadline for distributing Written Information Notice and Workplace Posters to employees was set for May 31, 2019.

In response to employer concerns, the Department has extended the deadline for the Written Information Notices (and presumably the Workplace Poster deadline) to June 30, 2019. In extending the deadline, the Department also emphasized the following details with respect to the compliance requirements related to the Written Information Notices:

  • The Written Information Notice must be provided to all employees and independent contractors, engaged by the employer as of June 30, 2019.
  • The Written Information Notice may be provided electronically, but must include the opportunity for an employee or independent contractor to acknowledge receipt or decline to acknowledge receipt of the information. The employer can receive these acknowledgments in paper form or electronically.
  • In the event that an employee or independent contractor fails to acknowledge receipt, the Department shall consider an employer to have fulfilled its notice obligation if it can establish that it provided to each member of its current workforce notice and the opportunity to acknowledge or decline to acknowledge receipt.
  • With respect to providing Written Information Notices to W2 employees:

– The Employer must issue a Written Information Notice to each employee within 30 days of their first day of employment. The Written Information Notice must be written in the employee’s primary language.

– Employers may use the Department template or create a customized Written Information Notice for distribution to employees. If an employer elects to customize a Written Information Notice, the custom notice must contain:

– An explanation of the availability of family and medical leave benefits

– The employee’s contribution amount and obligations

– The employer’s contribution amount and obligations

– The employer’s name and mailing address

– The employer identification number assigned by the Department

– Instructions on how to file a claim for family and medical leave benefits

– The mailing address, email address, and telephone number of the Department.

  • With respect to providing Written Information Notices to Independent Contractors:

– The Employer must issue a Written Information Notice to each independent contractor, when the employer enters into the contract for services. The Written Information Notice must be written in the independent contractor’s primary language.

– Employers may use the Department template or create a customized Written Information Notice for distribution to independent contractors. If an employer elects to customize a Written Information Notice, the custom notice must contain:

– An explanation of the availability of family and medical leave benefits, and the procedures for independent contractors to become covered individuals under the PFML.

– The independent contractor’s contribution amount and obligations if they were to become a “covered” individual under the PFML.

– The employer’s contribution amount and obligations.

– The employer’s name, mailing address, and email address.

– The employer’s identification number assigned by the Department.

– Instructions on how to file a claim for family and medical leave benefits.

– The address and telephone number of the Department.

Failure to provide these required notifications may result in fines of up to $300 per violation.

For more information on the PFML, please contact Matthew Mitchell or Amanda Thibodeau.

SUMMER IS COMING: Massachusetts Compliance Requirements with Respect to Summer Internship Programs

April 29, 2019 Leave a comment

MLM Headshot Photo 2019 (M1341570xB1386)By: Matthew Mitchell

For the Morse Employment Law Group, the arrival of spring is marked, not by the blooming of vernal flowers, but, rather, by the steady increase of inquiries related to summer interns.

A summer internship program is often an important component of an employer’s annual business cycle: internships help connect an employer to its surrounding academic communities; internships can facilitate an employer’s civic engagement; and such programs can serve as an efficient recruitment tool, particularly in tight job markets. Despite the prevalence and value of such programs, some employers tend to see their summer interns as “casual” or “unregulated” employees. It should be noted, however, that the employment of summer interns, particularly with respect to interns who are under age 18, is a highly regulated area of Massachusetts law.

Below are a few key concepts to keep in mind:

Paid versus Unpaid Interns

Massachusetts employers must compensate their interns – at, at least, a minimum wage rate – for work performed, unless the internship program qualifies as a “training program in a charitable, educational or religious institution.” The Massachusetts Attorney General and the Massachusetts Department of Labor Standards have interpreted this standard, narrowly, to mean that an employer may not engage an intern on an unpaid basis, unless the following factors are strictly met:

  • The internship is tied to the intern’s formal education program by integrated coursework, or the receipt of academic credit.
  • The intern and the employer clearly understand that there is no expectation of compensation. Any promise of compensation, express or implied, suggests that the intern is an employee—and vice versa.
  • The internship provides training that would be similar to that which would be given in an educational environment, including the clinical and other hands-on training provided by educational institutions.
  • The internship accommodates the intern’s academic commitments by corresponding to the academic calendar.
  • The internship’s duration is limited to the period in which the internship provides the intern with beneficial learning.
  • The intern’s work complements, rather than displaces, the work of paid employees while providing significant educational benefits to the intern.
  • The intern and the employer understand that the internship is conducted without entitlement to a paid job at the conclusion of the internship.

As such, absent very limited circumstances, Massachusetts employers must pay their interns.

School-Aged Interns

Offering internship opportunities to minor children adds another layer of regulatory complexity:

  • Massachusetts child labor laws limit the hours a worker who is under age 18 may work, and limit the types of job functions such workers may perform. In fact, there are at least 49 discrete laws that define and limit, very specifically, the type of work employees under age 18 may engage in. For example:  workers under age 18 may not be employed in jobs that require the operation of electrical machinery; workers under age 16 may not be employed in a manufacturing facility.
  • Massachusetts law requires employers to obtain Youth Employment Permits (work permits) for all workers under 18. In Massachusetts, children under 14 may not work at all, except in very limited cases.
  • In Massachusetts, workers under 18 may not enter into contractual restrictions (such as non-disclosure or assignment of invention clauses), without parental consent, and may not be subject to non-competition agreements at all.
  • There may be enhanced workers’ compensation premium obligations and benefit protections for workers under age 18, depending on the circumstances.

***

To the extent that you are considering engaging summer interns this year, we recommend a brief consultation with a member of the Morse Employment Law Group. As with all matters related to Wage and Hour laws, a non-compliant summer internship program may result in significant penalties and litigation liability.

For more information, please contact Matthew Mitchell or Amanda Thibodeau.

Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave Update: Department Sets May 31, 2019 Deadline for Employers to Comply with Notice Requirements

April 25, 2019 Leave a comment

2015-01-05_8-57-41As we have reported, although the employee benefits provisions of the Massachusetts Paid Medical and Family Leave Law (the “PFML”) do not go into effect until 2021, employer compliance obligations under the PFML begin as early as the spring of 2019.  A number of these early compliance hurdles flow from the PFML’s notice requirements.

The PFML requires that employers provide clear and advance notice, to their workforces, of the rights provided under the law. This requirement includes: (a) providing employees and independent contractors with so-called “Written Information Notices;” and (b) posting approved Workplace Posters.

On April 17, 2019, the Massachusetts Department of Family and Medical Leave (the “Department”), the state agency charged with administering the PFML, published template Written Information Notices and Workplace Posters forms here. In connection with the publication of these templates, the Department instructed that employers must provide their workforces with the compliant Written Information Notices (and presumably post compliant Workplace Posters) by May 31, 2019. The Department also provided the following details with respect to the compliance requirements related to the Written Information Notices:

  • The Written Information Notice must be provided to all employees and independent contractors, engaged by the employer as of May 31, 2019.
  • The Written Information Notice may be provided electronically, but must include the opportunity for an employee or independent contractor to acknowledge receipt or decline to acknowledge receipt of the information. The employer can receive these acknowledgments in paper form or electronically.
  • In the event that an employee or independent contractor fails to acknowledge receipt, the Department shall consider an employer to have fulfilled its notice obligation if it can establish that it provided to each member of its current workforce notice and the opportunity to acknowledge or decline to acknowledge receipt.
  • With respect to providing Written Information Notices to W2 employees:

– The Employer must issue a Written Information Notice to each employee within 30 days of their first day of employment. The Written Information Notice must be written in the employee’s primary language.

– Employers may use the Department template or create a customized Written Information Notice for distribution to employees. If an employer elects to customize a Written Information Notice, the custom notice must contain:

– An explanation of the availability of family and medical leave benefits

– The employee’s contribution amount and obligations

– The employer’s contribution amount and obligations

– The employer’s name and mailing address

– The employer identification number assigned by the Department

– Instructions on how to file a claim for family and medical leave benefits

– The mailing address, email address, and telephone number of the Department.

  • With respect to providing Written Information Notices to Independent Contractors:

– The Employer must issue a Written Information Notice to each independent contractor, when the employer enters into the contract for services. The Written Information Notice must be written in the independent contractor’s primary language.

– Employers may use the Department template or create a customized Written Information Notice for distribution to independent contractors. If an employer elects to customize a Written Information Notice, the custom notice must contain:

– An explanation of the availability of family and medical leave benefits, and the procedures for independent contractors to become covered individuals under the PFML.

– The independent contractor’s contribution amount and obligations if they were to become a “covered” individual under the PFML.

– The employer’s contribution amount and obligations.

– The employer’s name, mailing address, and email address.

– The employer’s identification number assigned by the Department.

– Instructions on how to file a claim for family and medical leave benefits.

– The address and telephone number of the Department.

Failure to provide these required notifications may result in fines of up to $300 per violation.

For more information on the PFML, please contact Matthew Mitchell or Amanda Thibodeau.

Department of Labor Proposes New Interpretation of Joint Employer Status Under The Fair Labor Standards Act

April 9, 2019 Leave a comment

AET Headshot Photo 2019 (M1344539xB1386)By: Amanda Thibodeau

On April 9, 2019, the United States Department of Labor (“DOL”) published a notice of proposed rulemaking (the “NPRM”) to amend its existing regulations regarding so-called “joint employer” status under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (the “FLSA” or the “Act”).

The FLSA requires covered “employers” to pay nonexempt employees at least the federal minimum wage for all hours worked and overtime for all hours worked over 40 hours in a workweek.  The Act also contemplates scenarios in which other “persons,” in addition to the nominal employer, may be jointly liable for wages due to an employee under the Act.  This concept is generally known as joint employer wage liability (although the term “joint employer” is not specifically used in the language of the FLSA).  Joint employer status under the FLSA implicates questions such as:

  • Is a franchiser liable for the wage obligations of its franchisees?
  • Is an institutional investor liable for the wage obligations of its portfolio businesses?
  • Is a parent corporation liable for the wage obligations of its subsidiaries?

In 1958, the DOL issued regulations interpreting joint employer status under the Act.  Those regulations instructed that multiple persons or entities may be jointly liable for wage obligations due to an employee if they are “not completely disassociated with” respect to the employment of an employee.  This open-ended standard, which remains the current DOL benchmark on the subject, has been the subject to debate for nearly sixty years.

The DOL indicates that the purpose of the NPRM is to make the determination of joint employer status under the FLSA “simpler and more consistent.”

A New Test For Joint Liability Status

The NPRM proposes a four-factored test to determine when a person or entity shares wage liability for an employee with the nominal employer.  The four factors are whether the person or business entity:

  • hires or fires the employee;
  • supervises and controls the employee’s work schedule or conditions of employment;
  • determines the employee’s rate and method of payment; and
  • maintains the employee’s employment records.

The NPRM clarifies that that “the potential joint employer must actually exercise . . . one or more of these indicia of control to be jointly liable under the Act.” (Emphasis supplied).  The reserved, but unexercised, contractual right to act in relation to an employee “is not relevant for determining joint employer status.”   In addition, the NPRM provides a set of examples that illustrate the limits of the four-factor test:

  • The potential joint employer’s business model—for example, operating as a franchisor—does not make joint employer status more or less likely under the Act.
  • The potential joint employer’s contractual agreements with the employer requiring the employer to, for example, set a wage floor, institute sexual harassment policies, establish workplace safety practices, require morality clauses, adopt similar generalized business practices, or otherwise comply with the law, do not make joint employer status more or less likely under the Act.
  • The potential joint employer’s practice of providing a sample employee handbook, or other forms, to the employer; allowing the employer to operate a business on its premises (including “store within a store” arrangements); offering an association health plan or association retirement plan to the employer or participating in such a plan with the employer; jointly participating in an apprenticeship program with the employer; or any other similar business practice, does not make joint employer status more or less likely under the Act.

What’s Next?

It should be noted that NPRM is a proposal.  The DOL is now soliciting comments from interested parties with respect to the NPRM, and will begin the process of developing a final rule on the subject.  Whether the DOL ultimately adopts the rules proposed in the NPRM is unclear.  What is clear is that the DOL is focused on clarifying standards with respect to this contentious area of employment law.  Morse will continue to monitor, and report on this subject.

***

Morse’s Employment Law Group regularly advises clients with respect to compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act and its developments.

For more information, please contact Amanda Thibodeau or Matthew Mitchell.

Equal Pay Day in Massachusetts: Are you in compliance?

April 2, 2019 Leave a comment

2015-01-05_8-57-41By: Amanda Thibodeau

April 2, 2019, is National Equal Pay Day – a date designated by the National Committee on Pay Equity to highlight inequities in wages between men and women. Equal Pay Day marks how far into the next calendar year the average American woman would have to work in order to make as much as the average American man made in the preceding year. With the recent passage of the Massachusetts Equal Pay Law, Equal Pay Day also serves as a reminder to all Massachusetts employers that they have specific legal obligations to examine, identify, and eliminate wage gaps among their male and female employees.

Read about the obligations in our Employment Law Alert.

Important Reminder: Changes to MA Non-Competition Laws Starting October 1

September 25, 2018 Leave a comment

2015-01-05_8-57-41

By now, many employers are aware that Massachusetts law governing non-competition agreements is changing at the end of this month. A non-competition covenant or agreement is a provision in either an employment agreement, offer letter or separate agreement where an employer provides to an employee or independent contractor payment or some other consideration (for example a stock option or bonus). The employee or independent contractor in turn agrees not to compete for a period of time, customarily one year, after leaving the employment relationship. To date, whether a non-competition agreement is enforceable has been largely a matter of judicial discretion and we invariably looked to case law for guidance.

Now, after a decade plus of the Legislature considering the topic, we have a new Massachusetts law effective October 1, 2018, Mass. Gen. L. c. 149, §24L, setting forth a number of rules governing non-competition covenants. Read about the Act and what your company needs to do now in our Employment Law Alert.

The New Mass Noncompetition Legislation: Old Wine in New Bottles? An Employer’s Perspective

September 6, 2018 Leave a comment

JMH Headshot Photo 2015 (M0846571xB1386)By: John Hession

Our Republican governor, Charlie Baker, recently signed into law a boon and a blessing for the average hourly worker, the minimum wage Walmart employee, or the lower level service industry employee. But for venture capitalists, angel investors, entrepreneurs, senior executives and key employees, nothing much may have changed in the landscape of noncompetition covenants. After years of deliberation and failed or stalled legislation, the new Massachusetts legislation regarding noncompetition covenants remains generally intact for the technology and life science industries – unlike California, where noncompetition covenants are unenforceable as a matter of law in the context of employment. While the law’s changes may seem an alteration of the landscape, many contours remain unchanged. First, noncompetition covenants entered into prior to October 2018 remain in effect and continue to be enforceable. Investors can continue to take comfort that existing noncompetition agreements cannot be frustrated or circumvented by the new law. Even noncompetition covenants that might have been longer than one year, if signed prior to October 1, 2018, will continue to be honored, but subject to the customary attacks of unreasonable scope and duration.

Second, after October 1, 2018, a venture-backed company can continue to require noncompetition covenants as part of initial or continuing employment. These covenants can last one year in duration, as long as the employer offers a payment of 50% of the annual base salary or other “mutually agreed upon consideration”. The principle of “mutually agreed upon consideration” will invariably become the topic of much debate and contention under the new law, resulting in extensive negotiation (and certainly renegotiation) of new and previous noncompetition covenants, with either existing employees or new hires.

One aspect of the revised law that is a dramatic change in the noncompetition landscape is that, when an employee is fired without cause, even a valid noncompetition covenant will be void or voidable. Of course, the legislature did not define “without cause”.  Hence, the parties will need to negotiate the definition of “cause”.  Caution is suggested whether it may be in a party’s best interest to employ the standard “cause” definitions contained in employment agreements with senior executives.

The new law offers opportunities for “creative combinations” of consideration. For example, as it has been an immutable principle of the past, the grant of a stock option or restricted stock award can certainly constitute adequate consideration to support the enforceability of a noncompetition covenant, if extracted contemporaneously with the equity award. As a result of the new law, employers would be prudent to ensure that any new option grants for current employees (or for that matter, consultants) are tied and tailored to the creation of an enforceable noncompetition covenant. Indeed, one could even consider installing the noncompetition covenant inside the option agreement, so the grant and the covenant are inextricably linked.

However, a critical procedural rule applies under the new law, requiring employers to be careful on installing noncompetition covenants as part of the hiring process. Under the new law, employers must provide to new employees the form of noncompetition agreement prior to the earlier of ten business days before the commencement of employment or before the delivery of a formal offer of employment. To avoid the headache of inadvertently violating this procedural rule, the process rules will require some thoughtful planning with your labor lawyer. You can guarantee that there will be plenty of unintended headaches and heartaches in this area – and the risk that a failure to comply with this procedural rule can result in many an employee’s noncompetition agreement rendered unenforceable – and sadly, after the fact. Consider the impact of such a failure when the reality of adherence to this procedural rule of timing is revealed – usually years later during the diligence process by a buyer in an acquisition. You can bet that acquirers will extract a pound of flesh — and price concessions – for prior inadvertent timing mistakes. Hence, careful planning and logistical practices in this area are very crucial.

So, despite the much-heralded proclamations that the landscape has been altered in the noncompetition arena, the more things change in Massachusetts noncompetition law, perhaps the more they remain the same for technology and life science companies, at least for the senior executives and key employees. After October 1, 2018, prudence – and sensible practice — demand that employers seeking to protect their goodwill, business operations and proprietary technology advantages continue to employ noncompetition covenants for senior executives, as long as adequate consideration supports the bargain of the noncompetition covenant, and the new rules on timing and notice are strictly and carefully adhered. While there may be old wine in the new bottles, however, it makes continued sense to have your “sommelier sniff the cork” before serving the libation – that is, consult with your local labor lawyer.

John Hession is a business and legal advisor to emerging life science, medical device, healthcare software and service companies, from cradle to culmination.

Changes to Massachusetts Equal Pay Law Coming in July 2018

May 1, 2018 Leave a comment

SJC Headshot Photo 2015 (M0846523xB1386)Employment attorney Scott Connolly discusses the changes to the Massachusetts Equal Pay Act in his new article, Changes to the Massachusetts Equal Pay Law Coming in July 2018. In an effort to remedy perceived pay inequities based on gender, the Massachusetts legislature recently passed An Act to Establish Pay Equity, which amended the Massachusetts Equal Pay Act (“MEPA”). MEPA prohibits gender discrimination in the payment of “wages.” The changes to MEPA will take effect on July 1, 2018.

For more information, visit our Good Company blog, and read the full article on our website. Please contact Scott Connolly with questions regarding the changes to the MA Equal Pay Act.

Board Members and Investors Found Not Personally Liable Under Massachusetts Wage Act

January 22, 2018 Leave a comment

SJC Headshot Photo 2015 (M0846523xB1386)A unanimous Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court recently ruled in favor of two former board member-investors of a biotechnology startup, finding the board member-investors not personally liable under the Massachusetts Wage Act for “wages” claimed by the company’s former CEO.

As employment attorney Scott Connolly discusses in his new article, Board Members and Investors Found Not Personally Liable Under Massachusetts Wage Act, at issue in Segal v. Genitrix, LLC, 478 Mass. 551 (2017) was whether the individual defendants, former board members of and investors in Genitrix, a Delaware LLC based in Boston, exercised sufficient management authority to impose personal liability on them under the Wage Act (M.G.L. c. 149 §148) for compensation due to the plaintiff.

Read the full article on our website. For more information, please contact Scott Connolly.

Scott Connolly Discusses Properly Classifying Workers in Accounting Today

August 3, 2017 Leave a comment

SJC Headshot Photo 2015 (M0846523xB1386)In Accounting Today’s article “Properly Classifying Workers Remains a Major Problem“, employment attorney Scott Connolly comments on how worker misclassification is a prevalent issues for both the Internal Revenue Service and state taxing officials. Companies that misclassify employees as independent contractors avoid paying minimum wage, payroll taxes, overtime, worker’s compensation, and other payments under the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act.  However, this mislabeling can lead to trouble with the IRS, including the company owing taxes it failed to withhold by classifying a worker as an independent contractor instead of as an employee.

Additionally, as Scott notes:

The employer should be concerned about misclassification claims from the workers themselves… Many service providers want to be classified as independent contractors, but companies run the risk because later there might be disharmony in the relationship.”

Read the full article for more information on the potential consequences of misclassifying workers, or contact Scott Connolly for more information.

Are You Ready to Reclassify? New Overtime Regulations Go Into Effect on December 1, 2016

October 5, 2016 Leave a comment

By: Sandra E. Kahn

2015-01-05_8-57-41On December 1, 2016, any employees who earn less than $47,476 annually will be entitled to overtime and must be treated as non-exempt, as per the U.S. Department of Labor’s final rule (“Final Rule”).
Don’t wait any longer to address this critical change in the law.
Find out how the Final Rule will affect your current employee classifications and pay practices, and the consequences of not complying with the law.

Read this month’s Employment Law Alert.

Massachusetts Pay Equity Law Imposes New Restrictions on Employer Pay and Hiring Practices

August 11, 2016 Leave a comment

By: Maura E. Malone

2015-01-05_8-57-41On August 1, 2016, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed “An Act to Establish Pay Equity (the Act)” into law.  The Act, which does not become effective until July 1, 2018, will require Massachusetts employers to pay men and women equally for comparable work.  It also forbids employers from asking prospective employees about salary history or restricting employee discussion of pay.  The Act imposes significant consequences for
violations of the law.

The Act will make it unlawful for employers to pay unequal wages to employees of different genders who perform comparable work. The Act broadly defines wages to include “all forms of remuneration for employment.”

Continue reading on the full alert.

New Overtime Regulations Will Result In Many More Workers Becoming Entitled To Overtime

May 18, 2016 Leave a comment

By, Sandra E. Kahn

On May 18, 2016, President Obama announced the publication of the U.S. Department of 2015-01-05_8-57-41
Labor’s final rule (“Final Rule”) updating the overtime regulations, and providing that employees who earn less than $47,476 annually will be entitled to overtime.

The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) “white collar” exemptions are familiar to most employers. Under the FLSA, employees must be paid the minimum amount required by the statute on a salary basis, and the employee’s job duties must primarily involve executive, administrative, or professional duties. The Final Rule changes only the salary basis test, leaving in place the existing duties test.

For more details, read our full alert and visit our Employment Law Group page.

New Federal Law Protects Trade Secrets But Also Requires Changes to Employee and Contractor Agreements

May 5, 2016 Leave a comment

By: Sandra E. Kahn

The new Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016 (DTSA) is expected to be signed into law by President Obama.  The Act will allow claims for trade secret theft to be brought under a federal civil cause of action.

Under certain circumstances, the Act will provide protection for whistleblowers who divulge trade secrets to the government in order to report wrongdoing.  As such, employers will now have to inform their employees of that protection in any agreement or contract.  It is advised that employers consult with their counsel to revise contracts as necessary.

For a more detailed explanation of the DTSA, read the full post on our Good Company blog.

2016 New Year’s News for Employers

December 28, 2015 Leave a comment

2015-01-05_8-57-41As we approach the New Year there are a few important changes to keep in mind, as well as recommendations to get your employment law practices in order.

What are these changes?

  • Minimum Wage Goes Up
  • Earned Sick Leave Safe Harbor Ends
  • Sexual Harassment Law Compliance
  • Data Protection Compliance

For all the details read our Employment Law Alert.

If you have questions about any of the above suggestions, please contact Sandy Kahn or any member of MBBP’s Employment Law Group.

Employers Cannot Pay Employees With Stock or Equity In Lieu of Cash

September 30, 2015 Leave a comment

MBBP's Wage & Hour Tip of the MonthA company with a bright future but a temporary cash shortage might be tempted to compensate employees with an ownership interest in the company (stock or equity) instead of with cash.

But, is this practice legal? Generally, the answer to this question is no. Under state and federal law, employees must be paid at least the minimum wage in cash. Providing equity, no matter how much the equity is worth, does not fulfill this requirement.

An exception to this rule is made, however, if the employee comes within the exemption for executive-business owners provided for in the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). An individual who comes within this exemption is exempt from the FLSA’s minimum wage and overtime requirements.

To be exempt as an executive-business owner under the FLSA, an individual must (1) be employed in a bona fide executive capacity, (2) own at least a 20% bona fide interest in the business and (3) be actively engaged in the management of the business.

Unless an employee meets each of these requirements, paying in equity alone will run afoul of wage laws, and could result in significant liability for the employer, as well as possible individual liability for the president, treasurer, and individual “officers and agents” of the employer’s corporate entity.

For further help in determining whether your employee comes within the executive-business owner exemption or questions about paying employees with equity, contact a member of our Employment Law Group.

10 Points for Reviewing Executive Employment Agreements

September 22, 2015 Leave a comment

Employment Attorney Scott ConnollyAn executive’s employment agreement defines expectations regarding role, responsibilities and performance. It also establishes key contractual obligations for the executive and the employer concerning compensation and benefits, equity grants, the length or term of employment, early termination and its consequences, post-termination restrictions, and dispute resolution. Compensation, termination and other provisions may implicate tax rules and trigger penalties. Later, if there is disharmony in the relationship or disagreement about the parties’ obligations, these provisions may critically affect the rights and obligations of the executive.

Here are 10 important considerations when reviewing an executive employment agreement.

For more information on this topic, please contact Scott J. Connolly.

Paid Sick Leave Law Creates New Employer Obligations for Intermittent, Temporary and Seasonal Workers, Including Interns

July 7, 2015 Leave a comment

MBBP's Wage & Hour Tip of the MonthEmployers who use temporary or seasonal employees including summer interns should already be aware of the importance of ensuring that those employees are paid in compliance with federal and state law. Massachusetts employers should also be aware that the new Massachusetts Earned Sick Leave Law (the “Law”) has created additional wage and hour obligations for some temporary and seasonal workers, including summer interns. (Generally, the Law requires that employers with more than 11 employees offer both full and part-time employees paid sick time; employees with fewer than 11 employees are required to offer unpaid sick time).

The Massachusetts Attorney General’s regulations addressing the Law include a provision which entitles temporary and seasonal employees like interns who work intermittently for an employer (e.g., work for the same employer for multiple summers) to sick time. The result of these regulations is that employers covered by the Law now need to track the accrual of sick time for temporary and seasonal workers, and permit those employees to take sick time once they have worked for the employer for more than 90 days.

Under the regulations, an employee with a break in service of fewer than four months will maintain the right to use any unused earned sick time accrued before the break in service. If the employee has a break in service of between four and 12 months, the employee will maintain the right to use earned sick time accrued before the break in service, but only if the employee’s unused bank of earned sick time equals or exceeds 10 hours. Employees with a break in service of greater than 12 months will not retain any accrued sick time.

Although temporary or seasonal employees are subject to the Law’s provision that employees are only entitled to use accrued sick time 90 days after the employee’s first day of work, employees with a break in service of fewer than twelve months will maintain vesting days from the employer and will not need to restart the 90-day vesting period upon their return to the employer before they can use earned sick time.

For example, an intern who works full time for an employer from June until August will likely have accrued more than 10 hours of sick time. If that intern returns to the employer the following June, he or she will (upon working 90 total days for the employer, including days worked before the break in service) be entitled to use that accrued sick time.

For more information on the use of temporary or seasonal employees including interns or the accrual of paid sick time, please contact a member of the Employment Law Group.

Massachusetts Attorney General Issues Final Earned Sick Time Regulations

June 26, 2015 Leave a comment

The final version of tela_indexhe Massachusetts Attorney General’s Earned Sick Time Regulations contains some important clarifications to the Earned Sick Time Law, including changes from the draft regulations.  These changes include a fifth reason that leave may be taken, guidance regarding unlimited and lump sum policies, and a variety of other provisions.

Employers should review their policies to take advantage of the options provided in the new regulations.  To see what changes have been made and how they might affect you please read the full alert.

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