Massachusetts Enacts Comprehensive Paid Family and Medical Leave and Sets Sights on $15 Minimum Wage

On June 28, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed a comprehensive bill requiring employers in the state to provide workers with paid family and medical leave. The bill, titled “An Act Relative to Minimum Wage, Paid Family Medical Leave and the Sales Tax Holiday,” also sets a schedule to increase the state’s minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2023 and phase out time-and-a-half pay on Sundays and holidays.

The enactment of the bill, which will take effect on July 1, 2019, gives Massachusetts one of the most generous paid family and medical leave programs in the country, rivaling legislation passed in California, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Washington and Washington, D.C. The bill establishes a Department of Family and Medical Leave within Massachusetts’s Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, which will be responsible for administering the paid leave program.

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Have Your FMLA Forms Expired?

As many of you know by now, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) maintains model forms to help employers meet the notice requirements under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). What some of you may not know is that the forms you are using may have expired!

Every three years, the DOL is required to submit its model FMLA forms to the federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for approval for continued use. The DOL’s model FMLA forms expired on May 31, 2018. This expiration date was extended by one month, until June 30, 2018, which was again extended until July 31, 2018. The expiration date, which is seen in the upper right corner of the DOL’s model FMLA forms, relates to the approval process, not necessarily the forms’ actual content.

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Groundbreaking Austin Paid Sick Leave Ordinance to Take Effect This Fall

In February 2018, the City of Austin, Texas became the first major southern city in the United States to enact a private sector paid sick and safe leave ordinance. The ordinance, which takes effect on Oct. 1, 2018, for employers with five or more employees and Oct. 1, 2020, for smaller employers, provides that employees who work at least 80 hours in Austin in a calendar year will accrue paid leave at the rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked in the city, up to 64 hours annually (or up to 48 hours annually for businesses with 15 or fewer employees). For employees covered by collective bargaining agreements, the accrual cap may be modified — so long as the modification is expressly stated in the agreement. The ordinance is designed to set forth minimum requirements for leave accrual and use. Accordingly, it expressly permits employers to continue or adopt practices that provide the same or greater leave benefits to employees.

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Reminder: Beginning July 18, NYC Employers Are Required to Accommodate “Personal Events”

Most New York City employers are probably familiar with the Fair Workweek Law that went into effect Jan. 1, 2018, but surely not all New York City employers are. That is likely because until now, that law applied only to fast-food restaurants and retail employers. But all that will change come July 18, 2018, when an amendment to the Fair Workweek Law, which added – with little to no fanfare – a Subchapter 6 to the tail end of the legislation, will come into effect. That subchapter creates obligations under the law for all New York City employers, with few exceptions, but the obligations are limited to accommodations for “personal events.”

Specifically, effective July 18, 2018, New York City employers will be required to grant employees two temporary changes to their work schedule when those requests relate to (1) the need for a caregiver to provide care to a minor child or a care recipient; (2) an employee’s need to attend a legal proceeding or hearing for subsistence benefits to which the employee, a family member or the employee’s care recipient is a party; or (3) any reason that is permitted under the New York Earned Sick and Safe Time Act (ESTA). These three reasons are referred to as a “personal event.” Continue Reading

New York City Earned Safe and Sick Time Act Imposes Requirements That Must Be Implemented by June 4

As we previously discussed in our earlier blog post, an amendment to the New York City Earned Sick Time Act went into effect on May 5. That amended act, renamed the New York City Earned Safe and Sick Time Act, implements two major changes.

First, the act expands the types of circumstances for which employers must allow employees to use paid time off, which now encompasses “safe leave” related to any situation where the employee or family member of the employee becomes a victim of a family offense, sexual offense, stalking or human trafficking. An employee’s use of paid time off for any of these circumstances is referred to as “safe time.”

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The Legality of Class Action Waivers in Arbitration Agreements – SCOTUS Finally Speaks

The controversy surrounding the validity of employment arbitration agreements with class action waivers has been simmering since at least 2012. Now, with the Supreme Court’s decision in Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis, we have an answer: They “must be enforced as written” despite any debatable policy within the National Labor Relations Act that suggests otherwise. Before we analyze the majority and dissenting opinions, let’s take a quick look backward.

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New Jersey Government Approves Two New Laws Affecting Employers

New Jersey, presumably fueled by promises from the new governor, passed two bills affecting employers in the past two weeks. New Jersey now has a Paid Sick Leave Bill, which is headed to the governor for his signature, and an Equal Pay Act, which is now law, and which carries some of the most employee-friendly policies in the country.

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Budget Bill Imposes Sweeping Requirements on Employers Related to Sexual Harassment

The #MeToo movement is not finished making waves just yet. Governor Cuomo signed a 2019 Budget Bill on April 12, 2018, but the bill did not limit itself to budgetary issues. Instead, it included sweeping revisions to several statutes, resulting in several new requirements for employers doing business in New York State:

Anti-Sexual Harassment Policies and Training

The law mandates that by October 9, 2018, all New York employers enact an anti-sexual harassment policy that meets or exceeds the standards set by a model policy, which will be drafted by the New York State Department of Labor (DOL) and New York State Division of Human Rights (DHR).The model policy, although not yet drafted, will reportedly include: (1) a prohibition against sexual harassment, with examples of what sexual harassment is; (2) information regarding employees’ rights and potential redress to adjudicate sexual harassment, including administratively and judicially, and the remedies available to victims of sexual harassment, including references to the federal and state provisions and a statement that there may be applicable local law; (3) a complaint form; (4) a confidential investigation procedure and a commitment to due process for all parties involved; (5) a clear statement that sexual harassment is misconduct and that any employee engaging in such misconduct, and any supervisory or managerial personnel knowingly allowing such misconduct, will be sanctioned; and (6) a clear prohibition against retaliation for those who complain or who assist in any sexual harassment proceeding. Employers should note that the requirement to promise a confidential investigation may conflict with requirements from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to conduct a thorough investigation, and directives from the National Labor Relations Board that employers cannot institute a blanket confidentiality provision on workplace investigations. It is unclear how or if the DOL and DHR will remedy this contradiction in the model policy.

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UPDATE: The Second Circuit Finds Title VII Protects Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination

As we discussed in our May 22, 2017 blog post, the Second Circuit agreed to hold an en banc hearing to determine whether an estate for a gay man, who alleged he was terminated as a result of a customer complaint related to his sexual orientation, may revive its previously dismissed case against the deceased’s former employer. Yesterday, the Second Circuit decided that the estate can.

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Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act Will Be in Effect Before You Know It

As you may know, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed the Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act in July, expanding state protections for pregnant women and new mothers, and setting new rules for employers with six or more employees. Below is a brief synopsis of some of the most important changes that you should know about, and what you should do to prepare for the law’s effective date of April 1, 2018, which will be here before you know it.

Prohibition Against Workplace and Hiring Discrimination Related to Pregnancy and Nursing

The law expressly adds the following as protected categories against discrimination to the Massachusetts state code, Chapter 151B: “Pregnancy or a condition related to said pregnancy, including, but not limited to, lactation, or the need to express breast milk for a nursing child.”

As a result, victims of pregnancy discrimination can now win the same remedies available under any Chapter 151B action, including but not limited to back pay, front pay, punitive and compensatory damages, and attorneys’ fees. Continue Reading

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