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. Continue Reading Massachusetts Raises Minimum Wage and Passes Paid Family and Medical Leave Law

The end of the recent U.S. Supreme Court term brought with it the most consequential labor law ruling in recent memory. On Wednesday, June 27, 2018, the Court held that public sector employees who are represented by a union, but are non-members of the union, cannot be compelled to pay money to cover the union’s cost of representing the non-member. In a major victory for opponents of organized labor, the Court overruled long-standing precedent allowing public sector unions to compel so-called “agency” or “fair share” fees from non-consenting members. Continue Reading Supreme Court Deals Blow to Public Sector Unions by Barring Compelled Union Agency Fees

On Tuesday, Governor Malloy signed into law a bill amending Connecticut’s Act Concerning Pay Equity so that, with limited exceptions, Connecticut employers will no longer be allowed to inquire about an applicant’s wage and salary history. Following the trend set by states that have enacted pay equity measures, including Massachusetts, Connecticut’s pay equity law imposes a number of restrictions on employers.

Beginning January 1, 2019, Connecticut employers with one or more employees (practically speaking, all Connecticut employers) will be prohibited from inquiring, either directly or through a third party, about a prospective employee’s wage and salary history. The prospective employee may voluntarily disclose its wage or salary history, however. Continue Reading Connecticut Employers Cannot Inquire About an Applicant’s Compensation History Beginning January 1, 2019

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.  Continue Reading U.S. Supreme Court Approves Use of Class Action Waivers in Arbitration Agreements

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. Continue Reading UPDATE: New York City Council Enacts Package of Legislation Aimed at Strengthening Anti-Sexual Harassment Policies

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. Continue Reading Connecticut Considers Requiring Legislative Approval of Agency Settlement Payments and Nondisclosure Agreements

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. Continue Reading Take Note: the Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act Is Now In Effect!

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. Continue Reading Updated Massachusetts Equal Pay Law to Take Effect on July 1, 2018

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. Continue Reading New York City Council Introduces Package of Legislation Aimed at Strengthening Anti-Sexual Harassment Policies

In light of all the recent storms, Connecticut employers should be reminded that the Connecticut Department of Labor’s rules on deducting paid time off (“PTO”) from an exempt employee’s PTO bank for office closures differ from federal law.  While federal law allows employers to deduct PTO from an exempt employee’s PTO bank for an office closure, the CT DOL prohibits this practice when the employer chooses to close the office.  By way of reminder, here is the CT DOL guidance on the deduction of PTO from an exempt employee’s PTO bank:

Inclement weather/Furlough days-Related Scenarios for Exempt Employees

  • Employer excuses exempt employee from work: Full salary must be paid. No deduction in salary is permissible. It is also not permissible to use fringe benefit (i.e., PTO) to cover the time.
  • Exempt employee requests day off because of the weather: Reduction in salary is permissible. Fringe benefits (PTO) may be used to cover the time off.
  • Employer excuses exempt employee sometime during the day because of worsening weather: Full salary must be paid. No use of fringe benefits to make up time is permissible.
  • Exempt employee asks to go home because of bad weather after starting work: Time off can be taken from fringe benefits, but employer must pay pro-rata portion of salary for the day to cover time actually worked. If employee has exhausted fringe benefit, the employer must still pay the full salary because the employee worked that day.
  • Employer tells employee that the usual place of work will not open for the day, but that work can still be performed either at home or at some location other than the usual place of work: Full salary must be paid.

CT DOL Guidance