It’s that time of year again—the Massachusetts Department of Family and Medical Leave (DFML) has rolled out new Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) workplace posters, workplace notification forms, and rate sheets for all employers in the Commonwealth. These updated resources provide the DFML’s yearly updates to eligibility requirements, maximum wage replacement benefit amounts, and
First Circuit Upholds Employer’s Win in Retaliation Suit
On November 1, 2022, in Dusel v. Factory Mutual Ins. Co., the First Circuit Court of Appeals held that “close temporal proximity” alone does not establish pretext as this evidence “must be considered alongside the . . . record.” Nor does mere close temporal proximity establish pretext where the employer has a legitimate business reason for taking adverse action against the employee, and more particularly, where the employer subsequently discovers the employee’s misconduct in a separate, unrelated matter. Dusel is a win for employers because it signals that engaging in protected activity will not immunize an employee from the consequences of misconduct that violates company policy if the employer enforces its policy consistently and documents the reasons underlying the employee’s discipline.
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Massachusetts Appeals Court Clarifies the A’s and C’s of Independent Contractor Status
On July 13, 2022, the Massachusetts Appeals Court signaled a victory for Massachusetts employers who rely upon independent contractors. In Tiger Home Inspection, Inc. v. Dir. of the Dep’t of Unemployment, the Appeals Court reversed decisions from the Department of Unemployment (“DUA”) and trial court, concluding that the inspectors were independent contractors under Massachusetts’s Unemployment Insurance statute (“Unemployment Law”) and, thus, ineligible for unemployment benefits. Focusing on Prongs A and C of the Unemployment Law’s “ABC” test for classifying independent contractors, the Appeals Court provided employers with excellent precedent and concrete guidance for navigating those elements of the test. Notably, the Unemployment Law’s ABC language largely tracks the Massachusetts Wage Act’s “ABC” test, with Prongs A and C using identical language. As a result, Tiger Home Inspection arguably provides employers with much-needed clarity for navigating both statutes.
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Massachusetts Appeals Court Rejects Whistleblower’s Constructive Discharge Claim
Employees who resign from work, sue their employer, and assert “constructive discharge” shoulder a heavy burden to demonstrate that they had no choice but to resign. A recent decision of the Massachusetts Appeals Court, Armato v. Town of Stoneham, shows just how heavy that burden is.
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Massachusetts Court Rules on Massachusetts Wage Act’s Treble Damages
Employers take note: the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (“SJC”) ruled this week for an employee seeking treble damages for untimely paid wages under the Massachusetts Wage Act (“Wage Act”), even though the employer had corrected its mistake and paid the wages before the employee filed suit. Writing for the majority in Reuter v. City of Methuen, Justice Scott L. Kafker interpreted the “strict time-defined payment policies” and liquidated damages provisions under the Wage Act to find that the employer was responsible for treble the amount of late wages, and not treble the amount of interest, even though the wages were ultimately paid before the complaint was filed. This underscores the importance of paying all wages, including vacation or PTO in a timely fashion.
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Five Fast Facts on Boston’s Indoor Vaccine Mandate
Ready for the “new normal”? Starting January 15, 2022, Boston’s “B-Together” Vaccine Mandate (“the mandate”) will require certain indoor establishments to require proof of COVID-19 vaccination for entry from employees, contractors, and customers.
- The mandate applies only to indoor portions of certain commercial food services, gym and fitness settings, and entertainment/recreation facilities in Boston
“Indoor food services” means indoor portions of food service establishments offering food and drink including restaurants, bars, and nightclubs. Fully enclosed “outdoor” areas are considered “indoor” under the policy. The mandate does not apply to open-air, outdoor areas, food service establishments offering food and/or drink exclusively for off-premises or outdoor consumption, or to food service establishments providing charitable food services, such as soup kitchens.…
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Massachusetts SJC Finds a Public Policy Exception to Employment At Will Under the State Personnel Records Law
Last week, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts (“SJC”) unanimously ruled that the state Personnel Records Law, M.G.L. c. 149, § 52C, provides for a public policy exception to employment at will. Writing on behalf of the full panel in Meehan v. Medical Information Technology, Inc., SJC-13117 (Dec. 17, 2021), Justice Kafker held…
Novel Massachusetts Decision Finds Waiver of Right to Compel Arbitration Based on Pre-Litigation Actions
Many employers are aware that they could waive the ability to enforce an arbitration agreement if they delay moving to compel arbitration until after they have engaged in significant litigation activities in court, such as filing a motion to dismiss or serving discovery requests. However, in Hernandez v. Universal Protection Services, a Massachusetts Superior…
Massachusetts SJC Endorses Expansive Reading of the Domestic Violence and Abuse Leave Act
Last week, a divided Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (“SJC”) in Osborne-Trussell v. Children’s Hospital Corp. ruled in favor of a broad interpretation of the 2014 Domestic Violence and Abuse Leave Act (“DVLA”), a law that provides certain employment protections for victims of domestic violence, including a prohibition against retaliation for seeking or using protected leave.…
Massachusetts Case Highlights Importance of Clear Communication in Compensation Plans
Preparing the terms of employee compensation can be a resource-intensive task requiring input from stakeholders across numerous departments, including human resources, finance, and legal. However, as the Massachusetts Appeals Court’s recent decision in Alfieri v. Merrimack Pharmaceuticals, Inc. demonstrates, investing those resources to complete the task will pay dividends when an employer is faced with…