The SJC, Massachusetts’ highest court, issued its long awaited decision in Sullivan v. Sleepy’s LLC,  SJC-12542 on May 8, 2019. The case should be of concern to businesses which pay individuals fully or primarily by commission, especially in the retail context or in automobile sales where the ruling departs sharply from federal law.

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For several decades the Massachusetts overtime statute, G.L. c. 151, §1A, required generally that an employee working in excess of forty hours per week be paid “at a rate not less than one and one-half times the regular rate at which he is employed.”  The statute included twenty categories of exceptions from this overtime pay requirement.  One such exemption applied to laborers “engaged in agriculture and farming on a farm.” G.L. c. 151 §1A(19).  The SJC has recently held, however, that farm growing and harvesting “does not include post-harvesting activities.”  The case is Arias – Villano v. Chang & Sons Enterprises, Inc., 481 Mass. 625 (2019).  Thus, the laborers in Arias-Villano were entitled to time and a half for the type of work they performed beyond “agricultural and farm” work is excess of forty hours per week.  That is, growing and harvesting does not include “cleaning, sorting, and packaging” of or related to the agricultural product itself.  The workers were entitled to overtime pay for such ancillary duties.

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

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Labor released its long-awaited updated overtime rule proposal.  Under the proposed rule, the minimum salary level at which an employee can be exempted from federal overtime and minimum wage requirements (assuming other criteria are met) would increase from $455 per week ($23,660 annually) to $679 per week ($35,308 annually).  If enacted, more than a million more workers would become eligible for overtime under the proposed rule.


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During the month of September, the Department of Labor will be holding a series of “Listening Sessions” throughout the country in order to hear public comments about planned changes to the overtime rules under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

On this blog, we have followed the long and winding path of the years-long efforts to update the FLSA’s overtime rules (see our posts on the subject here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here).  To recap, in 2014, the Obama Administration set out to overhaul the overtime rules, and, after nearly two years, issued a set of final regulations, which were to have gone into effect on December 1, 2016. Among other things, these regulations would have increased the minimum salary threshold for exempt workers from $455 per week to $913.  This change would have dramatically increased the number of workers who would be classified as non-exempt, and therefore eligible to earn overtime pay.  However, after President Trump’s election, and just days before the regulations were to take effect, a federal court issued an injunction halting the changes.  After almost a year of litigation and uncertainty, the Trump Administration finally abandoned the Obama Administration’s regulations and went back to the drawing board and started the entire rulemaking process over from scratch.


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Back in September, we reported that the Trump Administration had abandoned the appeal of an injunction blocking new overtime rules from going into effect.  That action effectively killed the Obama Administration’s effort to update and expand the overtime rule by raising the “salary level test” for executive, administrative, and professional workers from $455 per week to $913 per week.  At the same time, the Trump Administration signaled that a scaled-down update of the overtime rule was on the way … eventually.

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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.

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In a brief court filing on Tuesday, the Trump Administration dropped its appeal of the injunction preventing the Obama Administration’s new overtime rule from going into effect.

The new overtime rule, which was supposed to have gone into effect last December, would have raised the “salary level test” for executive, administrative, and professional workers from $455 per week to $913 per week. 
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A few weeks ago, the Department of Labor filed a brief with the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in which it backed away from the $913 per week salary level test set in the 2016 amendments to the FLSA overtime rules.  In that brief, the DOL stated that it would soon publish a request for information seeking public input to be used by the DOL in drafting a new proposed overtime rule.

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Donald TrumpWhile inauguration day is still several weeks away, employers are already wondering what is in store for them when Donald Trump takes office as the forty-fifth president. Throughout his campaign, Mr. Trump has set forth a number of promises and proposals that could have significant effects on American employers. It remains to be seen whether