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.

Round Up of Noncompete Reform Coming to New England

September 27, 2019 Leave a comment

2015-01-05_8-57-41Noncompete reform is taking over the country as more and more states – including four in New England – are making the decision to enact new laws restricting the use of noncompetition agreements by employers. Maine, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island all recently passed legislation that is expected to take effect soon, and a similar bill is pending in Vermont as well. Dates of note include:

  • In June 2019, Maine’s governor signed into law LD 733: An Act To Promote Keeping Workers in Maine. This new law took effect September 18, 2019.
  • On July 11, 2019, New Hampshire’s governor signed S.B. 197 into law, which amends New Hampshire’s previous statute governing the use of noncompetition agreements. The amended law took effect on September 8, 2019.
  • On July 15, 2019, Rhode Island’s governor signed RI H6019 – the Rhode Island Noncompetition Agreement Act, which will go into effect on January 1, 2020.
  • In January 2019, H.1 was introduced in the Vermont legislature. The bill was referred to the Vermont House Committee on Commerce and Economic Development, where it remains as of today.

Noncompete reform is gaining popularity, with more states likely to join in soon. Similar legislation has been proposed on the federal level as well, although the current federal bill, the Federal Freedom to Compete Act, has not gained much support yet and is currently sitting in the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.

Our Employment Law Alert explains the full extent of the bills and how they may affect you.