Compliance, Policies & Notices

On November 22, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas granted the request of 21 states to temporarily halt the effective date the U.S. Department of Labor’s Final Rule (“Final Rule”) raising the salary threshold to qualify for the white collar exemptions from minimum wage and overtime requirements from taking effect. Accordingly, the Final Rule will not take effect on December 1, 2016.… Keep reading

trade secrets

whistle blower trade secretsThe new Defend Trade Secrets Act (“DTSA”) allows owners of trade secrets to now bring a civil action in federal court to protect their trade secrets and confidential information. Further, under the DTSA, a trade secret owner may be awarded actual damages, injunctive relief, restitution, the extraordinary relief of ex parte seizure orders and, if there is willful or malicious misappropriation, exemplary damages (up to double damages) and attorneys’ fees. Although the DTSA is a big win for employers seeking to protect their trade secrets and confidential information, employers may be precluded from being awarded exemplary damages and attorneys’ fees if the employee’s confidentiality agreement does not contain an express exception for disclosures related to whistleblowing.… Keep reading

Earlier this year, in Mandatory Paid Sick Leave — What In-House Counsel and Employers Need to Know, I previewed some of the requirements of the Massachusetts Earned Sick Time Law. Final regulations were issued by the Attorney General’s office on June 22, 2015. Almost one month after the deadline for compliance, how are you doing in complying with the new law? If you’re like many employers, you may still be figuring it all out. Here are four key points all employers should be aware of.… Keep reading

Convincing a court that a company has properly classified a worker as an independent contractor has become increasingly difficult in Massachusetts. So, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s decision just last week that taxicab drivers are, in fact, properly classified as independent contractors was somewhat unexpected.… Keep reading

Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that a new test applies for pregnancy discrimination. In Young v. UPS, the Supremes decided that in pregnancy discrimination actions under the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (“PDA”), the long-standing McDonnell-Douglas burden shifting test does not apply. Employers should ensure their policies, especially any light duty policies, comply with the Young decision.… Keep reading

For years, the Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act (“MMLA”), M.G.L. c. 149, §105D, only applied to female employees by its literal terms. The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (“MCAD”), the agency tasked with enforcing the MMLA, has taken the position that if the MMLA was applied literally, it would be unconstitutional, as it would give female employees greater employment rights than men. Although initially intended to protect women who were giving birth to children, since the MMLA also protects women who adopt children, it is not about the physical “disability” associated with giving birth to a child.  Thus, the argument goes, men should also be covered by its protections.  The conflict between the literal terms of the MMLA and the MCAD’s guidelines for interpreting the MMLA created difficulty for employers who were not subject to the Family and Medical Leave Act (which entitles eligible employees, regardless of gender, to up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the birth or adoption of a child).

On his last day in office, Governor Deval Patrick settled the matter once and for all, by signing into law a bill that expressly expands the protections of the MMLA to all employees, regardless of gender.… Keep reading

stethoscope

stethoscopeAs indicated in a recent blog post in the Harvard Business Review, entitled “Who Has Paid Sick Leave, Who Doesn’t, and What’s Changing,” paid sick leave traditionally was a benefit that only some employers provided, and in some cases only to certain employees. In recent years, however, increasing numbers of cities and states have begun mandating that employers provide this traditionally voluntary benefit. In fact, if President Obama makes good on his promise from his State of the Union address, there will be a national standard for mandatory paid sick leave. With the fast-changing landscape of rules and regulations related to paid sick leave, in-house counsel and employers need to keep alert. In Massachusetts, for instance, voters approved a ballot measure which goes into effect on July 15, 2015.… Keep reading

Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, Carolina Panthers Pro Bowl defensive end Greg Hardy, and San Francisco 49ers defensive end Ray MacDonald all have something in common (and it’s not just that they are incredibly talented professional football players):  They have all been indicted for engaging in conduct that constitutes domestic violence.  In Hardy’s case, he has been convicted for domestic abuse.  And just a few days ago, Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was indicted for abusing his son and is now under investigation for abusing another son.

The National Football League’s travails with perpetrators of domestic violence have been numerous and storied, and after years of dealing with player domestic abuse instances, the NFL finally instituted a Domestic Violence Policy.  While the NFL’s policy is directed towards perpetrators of domestic violence, Massachusetts employers now are required to protect employee victims of domestic violence.… Keep reading

As in-house counsel, how would you like to tell your CEO: “While our customer lists, pricing information, and business processes are trade secrets, we can’t sue the independent contractor who stole them because we did not do enough to protect those trade secrets.”  Sound contrived?  Well, that is exactly the ruling one Massachusetts Superior Court judge recently issued in C.R.T.R., Inc. v. Lao. … Keep reading

For entrepreneurs starting a new business, the focus often is on developing the products or services being offered by the business and, maybe, financing for getting (and keeping) the business off the ground. Yet, regardless of whether the business offers products or services, no business can succeed without people. Therefore, setting up proper intake systems for hiring at an early stage is critical in order to limit exposure to employment issues as the business grows. One easy way to do this is by using a hiring/on-boarding checklist like the one set out below. While this checklist is not intended to be a comprehensive list of issues that all businesses need to consider when hiring, it should provide at least some general guidelines for hiring and on-boarding new employees. Every state has different laws applicable to hiring and on-boarding, so be sure to check your applicable state’s laws.

Prior to hire:

  • Prepare job application (for Massachusetts employees, you cannot request criminal history information and must include a statement that requesting the candidate to undergo a lie detector test is unlawful).
  • Prepare employee handbook, including “at will” status, hours of work, absence policies, anti-harassment/anti-discrimination policies (be specific about no retaliation and
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