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Governor Issues Emergency Orders that Require Most MA Employers to Modify Business Operations

March 16, 2020 Leave a comment

2015-01-05_8-57-41On Sunday, March 15, 2020, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker announced emergency orders in response to the Coronavirus outbreak, that directly affect Massachusetts employers.

Specifically, the Governor directed, in material part:

  • A suspension of educational operations at all public and private elementary and secondary schools in the Commonwealth;
  • A prohibition of gatherings of over 25 people, including, but not limited to, community, civic, public, leisure, faith-based events, sporting events with spectators, concerts, conventions, fundraisers, parades, fairs, festivals, and any similar event or activity that brings together 25 or more persons in a single room or single space. (This prohibition expressly prohibits gatherings of more than 25 people in open work spaces, such as conference rooms.)

The Governor’s emergency orders take effect on Tuesday, March 17, 2020, and are scheduled to remain in place through April 5, 2020, unless otherwise ordered.

Read the following Employment Law Alert for more information.

Read the following article on Force Majeure in Light of the Coronavirus Outbreak.

Coronavirus Response Update – March 13, 2020

March 13, 2020 Leave a comment

MLM Headshot Photo 2019 (M1341570xB1386)By: Matthew Mitchell

The Coronavirus outbreak is creating unprecedented challenges for employers. Existing employment law standards and structures do not contemplate our present circumstances, and employers are increasingly faced with novel questions with respect to employee relations.

We are beginning to see some clarity on the subject, however. As government and organizational actors begin to deploy response strategies, best employment practices regarding Coronavirus concerns are emerging.

Matthew Mitchell provides answers to several common questions regarding the Coronavirus in the following COVID-19 Client Alert.

The Morse Employment Law Team is following this topic closely. Please contact us should you have any questions.

Coronavirus Response Update – March 12, 2020

March 12, 2020 Leave a comment

In recent days, we have seen increased incidents of COVID-19 infections in Massachusetts and around the United States, and extraordinary actions from federal, state, and organizational actors in response to the outbreak – including the announcement by the White House last evening of a European travel ban, and the proposed suspension of all Social Security payroll taxes.

We are fielding many inquiries from concerned and confused private-sector clients concerning appropriate response strategies.

As outlined in our prior Alert on the subject, it should be emphasized that, at this time, there are no legal directives, related to Coronavirus, that apply generally to restrict the business operations of private-sector employers.  Rather, there are government-issued guidelines and recommendations that place the burden on employers to adopt their own common-sense measures, within existing legal rules.  For example:

That said, it has been reported that Federal and state governments are now considering emergency orders that would regulate and limit operations of private-sector employers, including directives that would require temporary closures of some workplaces.  As such, we believe it is prudent that employers begin now to plan for such contingencies.

The Morse Employment Law Team is following this topic closely.  Please contact us should you have any questions.

Coronavirus Response Update – March 11, 2020

March 11, 2020 Leave a comment

MLM Headshot Photo 2019 (M1341570xB1386)By: Matthew Mitchell

In response to increased incidents of COVID-19 infections in the Commonwealth, on Tuesday, March 10, 2020, Governor Charlie Baker declared a State of Emergency in Massachusetts. The State of Emergency declaration is, in essence, an activation of the Governor’s emergency powers – meaning that the Governor may now order certain directives and allocate certain resources, to respond to the Coronavirus outbreak, outside of regular legislative processes.

The Governor has issued a directive that applies to the Commonwealth’s Executive Branch. Matthew Mitchell explains what this directive to public-sector employers entails in the following client alert.

The Morse Employment Law Team is following this topic closely. Please contact us should you have any questions.

3/6/20 – Client Alert: Recommended Employer Response to the Coronavirus

March 6, 2020 Leave a comment

AET Headshot Photo 2019 (M1344539xB1386)By: Amanda Thibodeau

The spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), and its effects on business markets, travel, and public health, are dominating the news cycle. As this public health emergency continues to develop, it is critical that employers adopt measured policies that promote safe working environments, and that employers identify and execute on strategies to limit business interruptions.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) has released an interim guidance for private sector employers that relates to the management of coronavirus concerns. The core themes of the guidance include: promoting use of sick time, cleaning work spaces and encouraging good hygiene, restricting travel, etc.

Read Amanda Thibodeau’s client alert for more information and further guidance on the management of coronavirus concerns.

A New Year’s Reminder: Discretionary, End-Of-Year Bonuses and the Massachusetts Equal Pay Act

January 8, 2020 Leave a comment

MLM Headshot Photo 2019 (M1341570xB1386)By: Matthew Mitchell

The discretionary, end-of-year bonus is the most common form of incentive compensation. When executed well, the discretionary bonus provides employers with the opportunity to reward employee success. However, when executed poorly, even a well-intentioned discretionary bonus may result in significant employment law liability.

The recent passage of the Massachusetts Equal Pay Act, M.G.L. c. 149, §105A (the “Act”), complicates the compliance landscape that applies to discretionary bonuses.  As January bonus season kicks off, employers are well-served to understand the restrictions that the Act imposes on discretionary bonuses.

Review our Employment Team’s recent Employment Law Alert to learn how the Act regulates the type of compensation structures employers may apply to their Massachusetts employees.

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

New Minimum Wage Rate for Massachusetts Employees Effective January 1, 2020

January 6, 2020 Leave a comment

AET Headshot Photo 2019 (M1344539xB1386)By: Amanda Thibodeau

With the new year comes a new minimum wage rate for Massachusetts non-exempt employees.  As of January 1, 2020 the minimum wage rate is now $12.75 per hour, and $4.95 per hour for tipped employees.  Employers with Massachusetts-based non-exempt employees should update their payroll provider to reflect the increase – and be sure to use the new rate when calculating any earned overtime.

The change comes from a 2018 bill signed by Governor Baker that gradually increases the minimum wage rate until it reaches $15.00 per hour in 2023 ($6.75 per hour for tipped employees).

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