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

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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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For those who thought the Trump DOL would back off the increased enforcement efforts of the Obama administration, last week’s news was not all good.  The U.S. Department of Labor just announced that the Wage and Hour Division (WHD) recovered a record $304 million in wages owed to workers in Fiscal Year 2018.  WHD also set a new record for compliance assistance events in FY 2018, holding 3,643 outreach events – including on the ground presentations and trainings – targeted to educate employers about their legal responsibilities regarding payment of wages.

Continue Reading US DOL Touts Its 2018 Enforcement Efforts

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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?

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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.

Continue Reading First Lawsuit Filed Under Massachusetts Equal Pay Act

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

The U.S. Department of Labor recently initiated a nationwide pilot program referred to as the Payroll Audit Independent Determination (“PAID”) program.  The stated purpose of the program is to facilitate resolution of potential overtime and minimum wage violations under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”).  The expectation is that FLSA claims will resolve more expeditiously and without litigation thus improving employer compliance with wage and hour laws and getting back wages to employees more quickly.

Continue Reading Are Businesses Ready to Turn Themselves In to the DOL?

This week, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that unused accrued sick time does not constitute “wages” that must be paid upon termination under the Massachusetts Wage Act.  This decision, Mui v. Massachusetts Port Authority, resolves a previously unsettled question in Massachusetts wage and hour law.

Continue Reading Massachusetts High Court Rules That Unused Accrued Sick Time Is Not “Wages”

Last week, the Department of Labor issued new guidance on whether interns are “employees” covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act’s minimum wage and overtime provisions.  In the updated guidance, the DOL has adopted the “primary beneficiary test,” first applied by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in 2015, and used by a growing number of courts in recent years.

Continue Reading DOL Issues New Guidance on Unpaid Internships

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Photo: OTA Photos via Flickr (CC by SA 2.0)

One of the key provisions of the new Massachusetts Equal Pay Act (which goes into effect on July 1, 2018) is that it prohibits employers from requiring prospective employees to disclose their salary history.  The reasoning behind this provision is as follows:  if employers are allowed to ask applicants about their salary history, and base compensation on the answers to those questions, applicants who have been on the receiving end of discriminatory pay practices in the past will continue to be hampered by past pay inequity throughout their careers.  If employers cannot base pay on what an applicant made previously, so the thinking goes, employers will have to set pay based on what the job is worth.

Continue Reading New Survey Shows How Questions About Prior Salary Harm Female Job Applicants