Maine News & Analysis

  • Treasury issues guidance on Trump administration's payroll tax deferral program

    In early August 2020, the Trump administration issued an Executive Memorandum on the deferral of employee payroll tax obligations because of the pandemic. On August 28, the U.S. Treasury Department issued Notice 2020-65 providing employers with information on several aspects of the program. Here are the highlights.

  • New guidance allows midyear changes to safe harbor retirement plan contributions

    Many employers searching for cost savings in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic naturally have begun scrutinizing their contributions to benefits, such as retirement plans. The rules for making changes to retirement plan terms—and permit reductions in employer contributions—are complex, but new guidance temporarily permits you to reduce or suspend safe harbor contributions midyear.

  • How employers can help working parents tackle remote learning

    Schools throughout Massachusetts are creating various plans associated with reopening. Several districts have announced hybrid returns with students alternating between attending school and remote learning (sometimes in the same week), while others have announced full remote learning. With the reopening looking very different than it has in any previous year and being decided last minute in many districts, parents are anxious about meeting their professional and family obligations, and employers are concerned about being able to run their businesses this fall. Some jobs just can't be done from home, and some parents who would otherwise be able to work at home will need to help their children with remote learning. And if that weren't enough, COVID-19 school-based outbreaks are a growing concern that could lead to additional, midquarter closures at schools throughout Massachusetts. So what should employers do?

  • When it comes to MA's Tips Act, consistency is key

    Consistency is key when dealing with the Massachusetts Tips Act (MTA), as one country club in Sharon learned when service staff filed a class action alleging they were owed unpaid wages under the Act. They won a jury verdict in their favor but appealed, arguing they weren't awarded sufficient damages. The Massachusetts Appeals Court, Massachusetts' intermediate court, affirmed the lower court's decision. Although the ruling didn't impose additional damages, it does show employers that if they want to avoid going to a jury, they need to get it right 100 percent of the time, not just most of the time. Read on to learn more.

  • Legislation would provide expansive new benefits to Massachusetts employees

    The Massachusetts Legislature is considering two bills containing expansive new protections for parents who are unable to return to work during the COVID-19 pandemic because of a lack of childcare as well as paid sick time for employees who aren't eligible for the same benefit under a federal law Congress passed in March. Because the bills have been designated as emergency legislation, they would take effect immediately if they pass and are signed into law. Here is a summary of how they would work.

  • Despite recent court decisions, questions remain for religious employers

    The U.S. Supreme Court issued two decisions recently that were welcome news for religious organizations and other employers that rely on religious convictions as they conduct their business. One decision bolstered the "ministerial exception,"‚ a doctrine stemming from the First Amendment that prevents government interference in religious organizations' ability to hire and fire employees. The other decision says certain private employers with religious or moral objections to birth control can exclude contraception coverage in their employer-sponsored health plans even though the Affordable Care Act (ACA) mandates such coverage for most employers.

  • Incivility and harassment at work? Employer policies can help

    Employers concerned about racist, sexist, and other unacceptable outbursts in the workplace cheered a decision from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in July that makes it easier to discipline or fire employees for offensive speech. Under the previous standard, employees disciplined for profane outbursts often could look to the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) for protection since Section 7 of the Act prohibits employer policies that may impede employee efforts to join a union or otherwise band together to improve the terms and conditions of employment. The previous standard was tolerant of some degree of heated speech uttered in the exercise of Section 7 rights as long as it wasn't violent or otherwise too extreme.

  • Q - A: Sending an employee for a medical exam

    Q We have an employee who felt dizzy and numb at work, so we called EMS. They took his vitals (which were fine) and suggested he go to the ER to get checked out. He refused to go. Although we can't force him to get checked out, we don't want him driving our company vehicle, either. What are our options?

  • Cutting-Edge HR

    Next Chapter aims to help formerly incarcerated people. Workplace communication company Slack announced in July that Dropbox and Zoom have joined its Next Chapter apprenticeship program, which is designed to bring formerly incarcerated individuals into engineering roles. In making the announcement, Slack said criminal justice reform has never been more vital to the country's health, and formerly incarcerated individuals account for unemployment rates nearly five times as high as those faced by other jobseekers. "This partnership is a small but meaningful step toward addressing the long-term, systemic changes that are needed to make our companies and our country more just and inclusive places to work and live," the Slack announcement said. Slack began its pilot program last year, and all three of its first apprentices have joined the company as full-time engineers.

  • Federal Watch

    EEOC launches study of EEO-1 Component 2 data. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced in July that it would fund a statistical study with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine's Committee on National Statistics (CNSTAT) to conduct an independent assessment of the quality and utility of the EEO-1 Component 2 data for fiscal years 2017 and 2018, which was collected last year. The Information Quality Act requires the EEOC to assess and ensure the quality and utility of data collected by the agency. To meet the requirements of the law, the assessment must examine the data's fitness for use, including the utility of pay bands in measuring pay disparities and potential statistical and analytically appropriate uses of the data. The EEOC said the assessment also will inform the EEOC's approach to future data collections.