A bill recently filed in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, if passed, would prohibit discrimination on the basis of height and weight. The proposed legislation would add height and weight to the list of protected classes covered by the Commonwealth’s antidiscrimination law (G.L. Chapter 151B) and public accommodation laws (G.L. Chapter 272, Sections 92A and 98).
On February 1, 2019 the Keene Sentinel reported that a Massachusetts construction company had been hit with more than $64,000 in fines after an audit conducted by the New Hampshire Department of Labor. Although the bulk of the fines were related to the misclassification of employees as independent contractors, there were also a number of recordkeeping violations found.
The Keene Sentinel article devotes significant attention to the problems of trying to classify individuals as independent contractors under NH state law, a very difficult burden to meet. The result of the audit and the fines imposed on the business, however, showcase how difficult it is for businesses who typically do not operate in a state to establish a workforce there and be in compliance with state laws.
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.
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.
In a highly technical, twenty-page opinion, a three-judge panel of the Massachusetts Appeals Court declined to answer the question of whether volunteer members of boards of directors of nonprofits can be held personally liable to workers for unpaid wages under the Massachusetts Wage Act. With the issue unresolved, for the time being, volunteer board members will continue to face some uncertainty about their possible personal liability.
The case, Lynch v. Roxbury Comprehensive Community Health Center, Inc., No. 18-P-179 (Nov. 30, 2018) involved a nonprofit that was struggling financially. The chair of the nonprofit’s volunteer board of directors—who was also holding himself out as the organization’s “president” and “acting CEO”—decided to use the entity’s limited funds to pay vendors instead of paying wages. Employees brought a class action lawsuit under the Massachusetts Wage Act, seeking recovery from the nonprofit, as well as from the board chair individually. Under the Massachusetts Wage Act, the president and treasurer of a business entity, and any officers or agents managing the entity, can be held personally liable for the entity’s failure to pay wages. The board chair sought to have the case against him dismissed on grounds that he was immune under state and federal laws protecting volunteers. Continue Reading Massachusetts Appeals Court Declines to Rule on Non-Profit Board Member Immunity Under Wage Act
Reality-TV-Star-Turned-White-House-Staffer Omarosa Manigault Newman recently grabbed headlines with her tell-all book about her short but dramatic tenure in the West Wing. Some of the most eyebrow-raising revelations came from the secret audio recordings she made of Chief of Staff John Kelly firing her in the Situation Room and of President Trump telling her, in the Oval Office, that he didn’t know she had been let go. Omarosa told Chuck Todd, of NBC’s “Meet The Press,” why she made the recordings: “If I didn’t have these recordings, no one in America would believe me. No one. So, I protected myself, and I’m going to tell you I’m so glad I did.”
When the Governor signed a recent appropriations bill passed by the House and the Senate during the last days of the most recent legislative session, the bill contained a version of the Uniform Trade Secrets Act. The UTSA version in the proposed legislation was buried deep within the appropriations bill, which was not entirely surprising. Such a proposal, entitled “Chapter 93L,” has been held out previously as part of a compromise to proposed non-compete reform, which was also enacted within the same appropriations bill.
The currently pending Senate proposal S.2625 – so-called non-compete “reform” legislation – was filed on Monday, July 23, 2018, in the Massachusetts Senate. It is not a stand-alone piece of legislation, but instead is buried deep within a $600 million appropriations bill which was issued from the Senate Ways and Means Committee. It would change drastically the legal landscape for enforcement of non-compete agrees. For example, it would require salary payments to the ex-employee during the non-compete period. It would also outlaw enforcement of a non-compete contract where an employee has been laid off without cause. It is a highly controversial piece of legislation which has been debated, in various iterations, for nearly a decade.
To read my recent op-ed published in the Boston Business Journal on this topic, click here.
It took barely 24 hours before what is believed to be the first lawsuit under the Massachusetts Equal Pay Act (“MEPA”) to be filed. On Monday morning, July 2, suit was filed on behalf of Elizabeth Rowe, principal flautist for the Boston Symphony Orchestra, in Suffolk County Superior Court. Rowe was hired for the role by the BSO in 2004, and the lawsuit claims that she has asked for years to be paid the same as the principal oboe player, a male. She alleges that the role of principal oboe is the one most comparable to her position and that paying her some $70,000 less per year amounts to a violation of MEPA.
A bill just passed by the Massachusetts House and Senate, with uncharacteristic speed and bipartisan support, has been touted as a “grand bargain,” meant to circumvent political wrangling over several contentious ballot questions slated to be put before the voters this fall. The wide-ranging bill establishes paid family and medical leave, raises the minimum wage, and eliminates premium Sunday pay, among other things. The bill now goes to Governor Baker, who is expected to sign the measure into law. Continue Reading Massachusetts Legislators’ “Grand Bargain” Establishes Paid Medical Leave and Increases Minimum Wage