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Total Articles: 20

MA Minimum Wage Increases and an Update on Paid Leave

Beginning on January 1, 2019, the Massachusetts minimum wage will be raised from $11.00 to $12.00, part of a tiered effort that will raise the Commonwealth’s minimum wage to $15.00 by 2023. Similarly, the tipped minimum wage increases from $3.75 to $4.35 on January 1 and will likewise continue to increase yearly until it reaches $6.75 in 2023. Under the new law, retail employees’ Sunday time rate will decrease from time-and-a-half to one and four-tenths the employee’s regular rate. The rate will decrease yearly until it is gradually eliminated in 2023.

Massachusetts High Court Rules That Sick Pay Does Not Constitute Wages Under State Law

On January 29, 2018, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court held that sick pay does not constitute wages under the Massachusetts Payment of Wages Law, M.G.L. c. 149, § 148. As a result, employers are not liable under the Payment of Wages Law if they choose not to pay out accrued, unused sick pay to employees upon termination of employment.

A Retailer’s Failure to Pay Time And A Half for Work Performed on Sundays And Holidays May Violate Massachusetts’ Payment of Wages Law

Massachusetts law requires most retail employers to pay employees time and a half for work performed on Sundays and certain holidays. In a case of first impression, a Massachusetts Superior Court judge recently held that retail employers that fail to make such payments may be sued under the state Payment of Wages Law, thereby subjecting them to mandatory awards of treble damages and attorneys’ fees.

Massachusetts Passes Pay Equity Act

On August 1, 2016, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker made news across the Commonwealth and around the country when he signed into law An Act to Establish Pay Equity (the “Pay Equity Act”), which strengthens the state’s existing equal pay law and imposes certain new obligations and limitations on employers. This Client Alert provides an overview of the key provisions of the new law. Employers should take advantage of the time before the Pay Equity Act goes into effect on July 1, 2018 to understand the requirements of the law and consider compliance strategies.

A Closer Look at Massachusetts’s Pay Equity Law

We recently reported on the sweeping pay equity legislation that garnered much attention throughout the most recent legislative session in Massachusetts. After much anticipation, this week Governor Charlie Baker signed the Act to Establish Pay Equity, a significant law that will affect all employers with employees in the state. The final version of the law will go into effect on July 1, 2018, giving employers ample breathing room to analyze and assess their compliance and consider conducting pay equity self-evaluations as outlined in the law. Below is a summary of the most significant provisions contained in the act:

Massachusetts Governor Signs Tough Pay Equity Bill

Massachusetts has become the latest state to strengthen its pay equity laws. Governor Charlie Baker signed a bill amending the state’s Equal Pay Act on August 1, 2016. The new law, which becomes effective on January 1, 2018, imposes more rigorous equal pay obligations on employers and provides for automatic triple damages and attorneys’ fees, among other things.

Massachusetts Governor Signs Expansive Pay Equity Law

As we recently anticipated, on August 1, 2016 Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed into law sweeping legislation that significantly modifies Massachusetts’s equal pay laws. Many consider the new law to be the most comprehensive and aggressive pay equity law in the nation. The law as signed is substantially similar to that discussed in our July 29 blog post, but contains some relatively minor language revisions and technical changes to the new affirmative defense afforded to employers that conduct internal pay equity audits. Most significantly, the law’s implementation date has changed: now it will not go into effect until July 1, 2018, giving employers more time to conduct internal pay equity audits and remedy any issues uncovered during an audit.

Massachusetts Prepares to Toughen Pay Equity Requirements

The Massachusetts legislature has passed a bill to amend the state’s Equal Pay Act that would impose more rigorous equal pay obligations on employers by prohibiting certain conduct. Both house of the legislature (Senate and House of Representatives) passed the bill unanimously in July. The bill now waits for the Governor’s signature.

Massachusetts Adds Teeth to Equal Pay Obligations

On July 23, 2016, the Massachusetts Legislature passed the Act to Establish Pay Equity (the “Act”).1 The stated purpose of the Act is to increase wage transparency and bridge the gender gap with regard to wages. Governor Baker stated that he intends to sign the Act next week. If he does so, the Act will take effect on January 1, 2018. When it takes effect, Massachusetts will have one of the most expansive equal pay laws in the Nation. In addition, by limiting the amount of wage-related information employers may obtain from job applicants, the Act may force employers to revise their job applications to eliminate requests for applicants’ pay history.

Massachusetts Moves Closer to Toughening Pay Equity Requirements

The Massachusetts Senate has passed a bill to amend the state’s Equal Pay Act that would impose more rigorous equal pay obligations on employers by prohibiting certain conduct. The House is considering the bill.

Massachusetts Earned Sick Time Safe Harbor is Drawing to an End: Are Your Policies Compliant?

On July 1, 2015, the Massachusetts earned sick time law took effect, requiring most Massachusetts employers to provide their employees with the right to accrue and take up to 40 hours of paid sick leave per year. The law does not require employers with paid time off plans or policies equivalent to, or more generous than, the new law to provide additional paid sick time.

New Massachusetts Minimum Wage Regulations Contain Significant Changes

While the January 2015 increases in the Massachusetts minimum wage for regular and tipped employees have received considerable attention and publicity, the Massachusetts Department of Labor Standards (DLS) also issued new minimum wage regulations to little fanfare. The new regulations have been somewhat of a “sleeper,” even though they are a marked departure from existing law in some areas. They include substantial changes to the prior regulations in the areas of employer notice and recordkeeping requirements, employee uniforms, and deductions for lodging and meals. They also include new language on the topics of working time, on-call time, travel time, and indirect deductions. In brief, the key changes in the new regulations include:

New Massachusetts Minimum Wage Regulations (PDF)

The minimum wage in Massachusetts increased to $9.00 an hour as of January 1, 2015. The law, amending M.G.L. Ch.151, also includes increases in the minimum service rate payable to tipped employees, and exemptions for seasonal camp counselors and counselor trainees. New regulations implementing the wage increase and other changes took effect on January 16, 2015. After Hirsch Roberts Weinstein attorneys testified at a public hearing regarding the proposed regulations, several of the firm’s recommendations were included in the final regulations. Significant changes in the amended law and new regulations are discussed in the attached alert.

Remember, The Massachusetts Minimum Wage Increased January 1, 2015

On January 1, 2015, the Massachusetts minimum wage increased from $8.00 to $9.00 per hour. This is the first of three annual minimum wage rate hikes that Massachusetts employers will face due to legislation signed into law last June.

Massachusetts Increases Minimum Wage

On June 26, 2014, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed into law legislation that will significantly increase the state’s minimum wage for hourly and tipped workers over the next three years. The current Massachusetts minimum wage of $8.00 per hour will increase to $11.00 per hour by the start of 2017 in three, graduated steps: (1) $9.00 per hour as of January 1, 2015; (2) $10.00 per hour as of January 1, 2016; and (3) $11.00 per hour as of January 1, 2017. This 38 percent increase puts Massachusetts on pace to well exceed President Obama’s announced goal of a federal minimum wage of $10.10 per hour. The $11.00 per hour rate would be one of the highest minimum wage rates in the United States, based on current scheduled state wage increases, exceeded only by the District of Columbia and certain municipalities.

Massachusetts SJC Holds That Wage Act Does Not Preempt Common Law and Equitable Claims for Unpaid Wages

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) has overruled a Superior Court decision holding that a state statute requiring payment of wages preempts common law and equitable causes of action for recovery of unpaid wages. As a result of the decision in Lipsitt v. Plaud, No. SJC 11285 (Aug. 12, 2013), employees will be able to recover wages that have been unpaid for longer than the statute’s three-year limitations period—a common law breach of contract claim, for example, has a six-year limitations period under Massachusetts law. Such wages would not be subject to mandatory trebling under the statute, however, and the employee would not automatically recover his or her attorneys’ fees (as the statute also requires).

Court Extends Massachusetts Wage Act Coverage to Out-of-State Employees

In a case of first impression, a Massachusetts Superior Court judge in the Business Litigation Session has ruled that the Massachusetts Wage Act protects out-of-state employees as long as they have sufficient contacts with the Commonwealth. In Dow v. Casale, et al., Superior Court Civil Action No. 10-1343-BLS1, a former sales director, who resided in Florida and worked out of his home in Florida, brought suit against several officers and directors of his former employer, a Massachusetts technology company, claiming that the company owed him in excess of $100,000 in unpaid commissions and accrued vacation pay. Finding that the Wage Act, “was designed to regulate the actions of Massachusetts employers, regardless of where their employees work,” Superior Court Judge Peter Lauriat concluded that the out-of-state employee had sufficient contacts to move forward with his suit seeking unpaid commissions and accrued vacation pay.

Mandatory Treble Damages on Massachusetts Wage and Hour Claims Are Not Mandatory for Conduct Occurring Prior to July 12, 2008

The Supreme Judicial Court, Massachusetts’ highest court, has ruled in Rosnov v. Molloy, SJC-10762 (August 31, 2011) that an amendment to the Massachusetts Wage Act, which mandates an automatic award of treble damages to employees prevailing on wage and hour claims under Massachusetts law, does not apply retroactively. Rather, according to the Supreme Judicial Court, it only applies to conduct occurring on or after the July 12, 2008 effective date of the statute. A 2008 amendment to the Massachusetts Wage Act, M.G.L. c. 149, section 150, provides for a mandatory award of treble damages to prevailing employees in wage and hour claims against their employers. Specifically, the amendment provided the following

Massachusetts High Court Rules Discharged Workers Are Owed Vacation Pay.

The state’s highest court recently ruled that an employee who earned and was entitled to paid vacation time under the terms of his employment agreement and who was involuntarily discharged was entitled to payment for his unused vacation time. According to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, while state law does not require employers to provide employees with paid vacation, when the employer does so, an employee’s entitlement is another form of compensation, which is due upon discharge.

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Rules Employers Must Pay Terminated Employees For Any Unused Vacation Time.

On June 11, 2009, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued a ruling in the case of Electronic Data Systems v. Attorney General holding that, under the provisions of the Massachusetts Wage Act (Massachusetts General Laws chapter 149 § 148) employers must compensate any involuntarily discharged employee for unused accrued vacation time. This ruling is consistent with a 1999 advisory issued to all employers by the Massachusetts Attorney General's office.
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