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Action Underway to Stop Implementation of the New DOL Regulations

Beginning December 1, 2016, any employee paid less than $913.00 per week will not be capable of qualifying for the exemptions from overtime known as the “white collar exemptions.”  According to the Department of Labor, this change will result in an estimated 4.2 million additional employees becoming eligible for overtime.  You can read more about this change here

Not surprisingly, action is underway to stop the implementation, including a September 20th suit brought by 21 states against the federal government to block the new overtime rule and declare it unlawful.  According to these 21 states, the final rule threatens their budgets, represents an encroachment upon the rights of states, and violates the 10th Amendment.  The 21 states named as plaintiffs in the suit are:  Nevada, Texas, Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Iowa, Maine, New Mexico, Mississippi, and Michigan. 

Also, on September 28, the United States House of Representatives passed a measure that would delay implementation of the new rule by six months.   The following day, lawmakers introduced a bill that would phase implementation of the new rule across five years and would require an “independent government watchdog” to study the new rule after its first year of implementation.   

If you have any questions about this proposed law or any other employment issue, please feel free to contact us.  Click here to register for our Labor Law Seminar where we will be discussing the new DOL rule and strategies to minimize its impact. 

Massachusetts Senate Passes Bill Requiring Paid Medical Leave

Last night the Massachusetts Senate passed H.4531, a bill designed to provide family medical leave and temporary leave insurance to employees. The entire bill can be found here: BillH4351. This proposed act applies to all employers with one or more employees and provides the following: 

  • Employees are entitled to leave if they have worked 1250 hours and at least 9 months, whichever occurs later.   
  • Qualified employees are entitled to 12 weeks of family medical leave.
  • Absent special circumstances, employees who take leave under this act are entitled to be restored to the same or similar job after the leave ends.
  • Taking leave does not affect right to receive accrued vacation time, sick leave, bonuses, or other employment benefits.
  • The leave is paid.
  • Violations of the section requiring payment of benefits are subject the Wage Act’s penalties, including treble damages and attorneys’ fees.    
  • Anti-retaliation provisions that appear to incorporate Wage Act’s penalties, including treble damages and attorneys’ fees.
  • Leave taken under this Act will run concurrently with leave taken under the Massachusetts Parental Leave Law and the Family Medical Leave Act.

If passed by the House and signed by the Governor, this law would dramatically impact the workplace.  If you have any questions about this proposed law or any other employment issue, please feel free to contact us.    

EEOC Issues New Guidance Regarding ADA Leave

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently issued new guidance regarding employer leave policies and the American with Disabilities Act.   The intersection of the ADA and employee leave is one of the most difficult areas of employment and, not surprisingly, one of its most litigated.  Importantly, this new guidance expresses the EEOC’s view that employer policies that cap maximum leave time at a certain amount of days likely run afoul of the ADA as they indicate an employer’s unwillingness to engage in a fact-sensitive inquiry in connection with each employee’s request for leave.  The new guidance also expresses the EEOC’s view that 100% healed polices are likely to lead to violations of the ADA because they result in employer’s refusal to grant reasonable accommodations.  The guidance also contains helpful scenarios regarding an employee’s right to leave and what length of leave is considered reasonable.  The entire guidance is available here on the EEOC’s website.   

 In light of this new guidance, employers should (1) review their internal policies to insure ADA compliance and (2) train their managers and supervisors on the ADA-mandated interactive process.  If you have any questions about disability law or the interactive process, please feel free to contact us.   

Governor Signs Pay Equity Act

Last week, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed into law S.2119, an act referred to as the Pay Equity Act. The Act contains the following prohibitions and important remedies.

  • Employers are prohibited from paying employees differently because of their gender for comparable work. Employers who violate this provision must pay double the disparity and attorneys’ fees to the impacted employee. Employers can avoid liability by establishing that they have conducted a good-faith audit within the three years preceding the claim and that they have made reasonable efforts to eliminate pay disparity.
  • Employers cannot (1) force employees to refrain from discussing or disclosing information regarding their own wages or other employees’ wages; (2) screen candidates based upon their wage history; (3) require applicants to disclose wage history as a condition of being interviewed or as a condition of continuing to be considered for an offer of employment; (4) seek the salary history of any prospective employee without their authorization; and (5) retaliate against anyone for exercising these rights. Employers who violate one or more of these five prohibitions must pay the impacted employee an amount equal to double his or her lost wages and attorneys’ fees.
  • The Act defines “comparable work” as “work that is substantially similar in that it requires substantially similar skill, effort and responsibility and is performed under similar working conditions.” Variations in compensation and benefits may be permitted under certain specific circumstances, including a bona fide seniority or merit system; a system under which earnings are measured by quantity or quality of production or sales; geographic location; education; training; and experience. These factors, however, must be reasonably related to the job and consistent with business necessity.

This law does not go into effect until January 1, 2018, so there is an opportunity to plan ahead to comply with its provisions. We suspect that the attorney general will issue regulations interpreting this Act. For updates on those regulations and on any changes to the law’s provisions and requirements, please contact the lawyers in our employment group.

Massachusetts Tries Non-Compete Reform – Again

Massachusetts has tried on numerous occasions to pass non-compete reform.  As recently as July of this year, the Massachusetts Senate Committee on Rules proposed S.2418, a bill that dramatically revised H.4434, the bill passed by the House weeks earlier.  The Senate bill contains numerous provisions that would drastically impact employer’s rights to enter into non-compete agreements with their employees, including:

  • Non-competes would be limited to 3 months in length, unless the employee in question has breached a fiduciary or misappropriate employer property, in which case they are capped at 2 years.
  • Non-competes would be prohibited for (1) non-exempt employees, (2) employees who are terminated without cause or laid off, (3) undergraduate or graduate interns, (4) employees 18 years of age or younger, and (5) employees whose average weekly earnings are less than two times the average weekly wage in the Commonwealth.
  • Non-compete agreements must state that the employee has the right to consult with an attorney prior to signing and must be provided to an employee by (1) issuance of a formal offer of employment or (2) 10 business days before start date, whichever is sooner.
  • Non-competes entered into during the course of employment must be supported by consideration beyond continued employment.
  • Non-competes must provide for garden-leave pay in an amount equivalent to at least 100% of the employee’s highest annualized earnings during the previous two years. 

This law, if passed, will dramatically change non-compete law in the Commonwealth. 

  • Employers would be required to inform the employees in writing within 10 days of termination of the employer’s intent to enforce the non-compete.
  • Employers would be required to review the non-compete with the employee at least once every five years.

Department of Labor Makes Drastic Changes to Law Governing Overtime

The United States Department of Labor recently issued its final regulations revising the overtime pay exemptions for employees.

Beginning December 1, 2016, any employee paid less than $913.00 per week ($47,476 per year) will not qualify for the executive, administrative, or professional overtime exemptions regardless of their job duties and level of responsibility. Employees making less than the new threshold must be paid overtime compensation for every hour they work over 40 in each workweek. The DOL estimates 4.2 million additional employees will become eligible for overtime pay because of this change.

Non-discretionary bonuses, incentive pay, and commissions can be counted toward up to 10% of the $913.00 threshold, as long as those payments are made on at least a quarterly basis.  Additionally, as of December 1, 2016, the threshold for employees covered by the “highly compensated employee” exemption will increase from $100,000 per year to $134,004. The regulations also provide that these salary thresholds will be updated every three years.

Given the new salary level required to get an exemption from overtime, employers must determine how to address workers who are currently classified as exempt employees but make less than $47,476 per year. This change is crucial because employers who fail to pay employees overtime to which they are entitled are subject to mandatory treble damages, attorneys’ fees, and interest under the Massachusetts Wage Act. Employers should take action immediately to prepare for this change, including updating your exemption classifications and developing strategies to limit overtime exposure.

The lawyers in Cohen Kinne’s employment group regularly advise clients regarding federal and state overtime laws and regulations.  If you are interested in discussing an employment related issue, please contact us.