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New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is proposing a measure, which, if passed, would make the Big Apple the first place in the nation to require private-sector employers to provide paid vacation to employees.  The details of the plan have not yet been released, but the New York Times is reporting that the law would require private employers with five or more employees to provide at least two weeks of paid vacation.  City Hall officials have estimated that approximately half a million NYC workers would benefit from the new law.

Continue Reading NYC Mayor Proposes Mandatory Paid Vacation for Private-Sector Workers

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which oversees the E-Verify program, has announced that the website www.e-verify.gov will not be available to employers during the current partial government shutdown. The website will not be managed or updated until after funding is restored. DHS reported that “information on this website may not be up to date. Transactions submitted via this website might not be processed and we will not be able to respond to inquiries until after appropriations are enacted.” Continue Reading During Fight Over Funding for Border Security, E-Verify Closed for Business

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With the first recreational marijuana retail shops now opening in locations throughout Massachusetts, one legislator is proposing protections for employees who choose to use the newly-legal drug on their own time.  The Boston Globe is reporting that Jason Lewis, a state senator from Winchester, Massachusetts, is planning on introducing legislation in the new year that, if passed, would prevent most employers from terminating or disciplining employees for off-duty, legal use of marijuana.

Continue Reading Proposed Legislation Would Prevent Employers From Firing Employees For Off-Duty Marijuana Use

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In July 2018, Governor Charlie Baker signed the BRAVE Act, a wide-ranging piece of legislation including a number of provisions aimed at increasing the support and services available to veterans and their families.  Among other things, the act provides increased tax relief and access to educational programs and other resources to veterans.  The BRAVE Act also updates state law with regard to the time off provided to veterans on Veterans Day and Memorial Day.

Continue Reading Massachusetts Veterans Entitled to Time Off on Veterans Day

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Perusing LinkedIn, as I often do over morning coffee, I saw this plea on one of the human resources groups I follow.  Not having the time to read it carefully, I put it aside in my “fodder for future blog posts” folder.  Like most of the people who responded quickly with advice for the human resource professional who sought help from her colleagues, my first thought was “big red flag.”  How can a company operate with all leaders and no workers, with all executives and no support staff?  The reality is that very few businesses of any size can realistically classify all of its workers as exempt.

Continue Reading FLSA Experts, please help. Can a small biz have all exempt employees?

On June 6, 2018, National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) General Counsel Peter B. Robb issued a memorandum (“GC 18-04”) to NLRB Regional Directors providing guidance on how to analyze employee handbook rules in the wake of the Board’s recent decision in The Boeing Co., 365 NLRB No. 154 (2017).  This guidance provides employers with a helpful road map for navigating the Board’s new three-category—and more employer-friendly—approach to evaluating the lawfulness of employer handbook rules by balancing the employer’s interests against an employee’s right to engage in protected, concerted activity under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

Continue Reading NLRB General Counsel Issues Post-Boeing Guidance Memorandum On Employer Handbook Rules

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The stories are legendary:  the employee who calls in sick and then posts a picture of himself dressed as a fairy at a Halloween party hundreds of miles away; the video of the salesman in a drunken stupor at a conference he is attending on the company’s dime; and just this past week, the New York City lawyer railing against an employee and a customer speaking Spanish to one another in a restaurant.  An individual’s social media can be a treasure trove of information about a person and could give insight into a person’s character and habits that might not become apparent until months or years of employment have gone by, perhaps never.

Continue Reading To Google or Not to Google: The Potential Pitfalls of Using Social Media in Hiring

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In what some believe the first federal trial over the classification of this new 21st Century worker, a federal district court found a Grubhub driver an independent contractor rather than an employee. With this determination, the worker did not qualify for protections extended to employees under California law. This is a big win for Grubhub, although Lawson appealed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

All eyes were on the case Lawson v. Grubhub Inc. in California. Grubhub is an on-line food ordering service that connects people to restaurants for take-out. In select markets, Grubhub also offers delivery of food through its drivers rather than the customer picking-up directly or a restaurant using its own delivery service.

Raef Lawson, who had worked as a driver for the company for less than six months, sued Grubhub claiming violations of California law. He alleged Grubhub had failed to pay him a minimum wage, overtime, and reimbursement of his work-related expenses. Lawson had worked under a Delivery Service Provider Agreement with Grubhub. He also served as a driver for two of Grubhub’s competitors – Postmates and Caviar – during this same time.

At issue was whether Lawson was an employee subject to certain protections under the law or an independent contractor.  In reaching its determination, the trial court primarily considered Grubhub’s right to control Lawson as well as other secondary factors under California’s classification test, referred to as the Borello test. After a trial, the judge found that “considering all of the Borello factors as a whole in light of the trial record, the Court finds that Grubhub has satisfied its burden of showing that Mr. Lawson was properly classified as an independent contractor. While some factors weigh in favor of an employment relationship, Grubhub’s lack of all necessary control over Mr. Lawson’s work, including how he performed deliveries and even whether or for how long, along with other factors persuade the Court that the contractor classification was appropriate for Mr. Lawson during his brief tenure with Grubhub.”  While reaching this conclusion, the judge also noted that this test is “an all-or-nothing proposition” and queried whether the legislature should consider other options or tests for these type of on-demand gig economy jobs.

The “gig” economy is a term that refers to a workforce of temporary or freelance workers who take short-term assignments, projects, or gigs. The increase in this on-demand worker shows a shifting away from the traditional long-term work relationship with a single employer to one of temporary projects. For more information on the gig economy, see my segment with Fred Kocher, host of NH Business.

This case is recognized as the first misclassification trial for a worker in the gig-economy.  For years, many of us have been watching how the courts would classify these workers under current law.  My previous blog posts (here and here) followed the class action litigation involving current and former Uber drivers in Massachusetts and California.  Various other gig-economy cases are pending in federal and state courts. This recent decision is significant as it could influence those and other classification cases going forward.

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Technological advances over the past several years including laptops, smartphones, and widely-available wi-fi, have made it a lot easier for people to get work done remotely.  And while many appreciate the flexibility and increased productivity that these advances provide, some lament that the ability to work anywhere, anytime has morphed into an expectation to work everywhere, all the time.

Continue Reading Should Employees Have a Right to Disconnect?