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Salvatore G. Gangemi is a Partner in the Litigation Department of Murtha Cullina and a member of the Labor and Employment Practice Group. He advises clients with respect to state, federal and local employment laws. In addition, he litigates matters involving misappropriation of trade secrets, restrictive covenants, breach of employment contract, fiduciary duty, and other work-related common law claims. Sal also counsels clients on day-to-day issues involving workplace management and administration, including requests for reasonable accommodation for disabilities, for family and medical leave, and wage and hour issues.  He conducts employment law training on a variety of topics, including sexual harassment prevention and wage/ hour compliance.  He also drafts employment policies and agreements, and assists clients in auditing worker classification practices and policies both in the context of the Fair Labor Standards Act and state laws governing independent contractor determinations.

On June 28, 2018, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed a bill titled “An Act Relative to Minimum Wage, Paid Family Medical Leave, and the Sales Tax Holiday” (H.4640).   The new law, dubbed the “Grand Bargain,” implements incremental increases in Massachusetts’ minimum wage over the next five years, and creates a new paid family and medical leave program in the Commonwealth. A full text of the bill can be found here.

Minimum Wage Increase

The law increases the minimum wage from $11.00 to $15.00 over the course of five years.  In 2019, the minimum wage will increase from $11.00 to $12.00.  Thereafter, it will continue to increase each year in $0.75 increments until it reaches $15 in 2023. The Grand Bargain also results in a five-year phase out of the requirement of premium pay for hours worked on Sunday.

Tipped employees will also receive a boost from the current $3.75/hour tipped minimum wage, which will increase by $0.60 increments each year until 2023 when the tipped minimum wage will be $6.75/hour.

Paid Family and Medical Leave Program

Reflecting a nationwide trend, the law establishes a Paid Family and Medical Leave program to take effect on January 1, 2021. The program will entitle eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of paid family leave and up to 20 weeks of paid medical leave, with a maximum of 26 combined weeks of paid leave in the same year.

Individuals eligible for leave include employees, self-employed individuals, and certain former employees.  The program will be funded by employers and employees through a payroll tax.
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On Monday, in a 5-4 majority decision in Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis, No. 16-285, the U.S. Supreme Court found class action waivers in arbitration agreements to be valid and enforceable, settling a long-standing split among federal courts of appeals.

By way of background, the Supreme Court years ago allowed employers to use arbitration clauses as a way to resolve employment disputes outside of court by requiring employees to agree to arbitration as a condition of employment. In recent years, employers have included class action waivers in such arbitration agreements.  These waivers prevent employees from joining a class or collective action lawsuit/arbitration against their employer. 
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As we discussed in a recent post, the New York City Council introduced a series of bills last month aimed at preventing sexual harassment in the workplace; The Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act. The City Council enacted the Act on April 11, 2018 and it is waiting final signature from the Mayor.
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Weeks before the uproar over revelations that U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty paid her chief of staff a $5,000 severance package and signed a non-disclosure agreement concerning sexual harassment allegations made against him, the Connecticut state Senate raised Senate Bill 503, An Act Requiring Approval of State Agency Settlement and Nondisclosure Agreements.”  The bill, if approved by the General Assembly – would require legislative approval of certain payments made to state employees pursuant to a nondisclosure or separation agreement.
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A new Massachusetts law significantly enhances existing anti-discrimination protections for pregnant employees. The “Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act,” effective April 1, 2018, prevents discrimination against, and expressly protects, employees who are pregnant or are experiencing pre- and post-birth pregnancy-related medical needs, including, but not limited to, lactation, expressing breast milk, and recovering from childbirth.
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The Massachusetts Equal Pay Act (“MEPA”), which amends the Massachusetts Equal Pay Law, goes into effect July 1, 2018, and applies to all employers regardless of their size, including the state and its municipalities.   Massachusetts was the first state in the country to pass an equal pay law and, in fact, preceded the federal Equal Pay Act by 18 years. The 2018 amendments make MEPA one of the strongest pay equity laws in the country, intended to close the reported 84.3.% pay gap for working women in Massachusetts.   In advance of this upcoming deadline, Attorney General Maura Healey (“AG”) issued MEPA Guidance on March 1, 2018.
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The #TimesUp and #MeToo movements continue to be a force of national reckoning over sexual assault and harassment. This month, the New York City Council harnessed the energy from those social movements and transformed it into legislative action by introducing a series of bills aimed at preventing sexual harassment in the workplace. The Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act is a package of eleven bills that would significantly expand the obligations of many employers to prevent sexual harassment.
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Last week, the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) sent a letter to leaders in Congress, urging the passage of legislation that would prohibit mandatory arbitration of workplace sexual harassment claims. In the letter, 56 attorneys general of the United States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, Guam, and the Virgin Islands called on Congress to allow victims of workplace sexual harassment claims to have their days in court and be afforded the “procedural and substantive due process” that comes with proceeding with a lawsuit.  
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