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.
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 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.
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.
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.
In 2010, Massachusetts enacted sweeping reforms to its criminal offender record information (CORI) system. Among the changes was a provision prohibiting most employers from asking about criminal history on initial employment applications. The measure is known as “ban the box” because it outlaws the once-common practice of inquiring about criminal background by including a checkbox on employment applications.
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.
Last week, Governor Baker signed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act into law, which guarantees greater protections for pregnant women and nursing mothers in the workplace. The bill had unanimously passed in both the House and Senate. The law prohibits employers from discriminating against an employee because of pregnancy or the need to express breast milk for a nursing child and from denying these employees a reasonable accommodation when it would not cause the employer undue hardship.
Please click here for a more detailed discussion of the law.
The law will take effect on April 1, 2018. Employers should start reviewing their current policies now in order to make the necessary revisions to comply with the law.
In a highly-anticipated decision issued yesterday, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court reversed a lower court’s dismissal of a suit filed by a woman who was fired because of her off-duty use of medical marijuana. The SJC held that the woman’s claims for disability discrimination under the Massachusetts antidiscrimination statute, G.L. ch. 151B, could go forward.