Massachusetts News & Analysis

  • Title VII protects LGBTQ workers from workplace bias

    The U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark opinion on June 15 finding Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does indeed protect LGBTQ individuals from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or transgender status. The Court's ruling reversed one circuit court of appeals holding and affirmed two others.

  • 5 trade secret protection risks to consider during pandemic

    In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, companies have changed their core business operations and instituted new practices and procedures in the blink of an eye. The changes, perhaps unknowingly, have created risks that could jeopardize the protection of valuable trade secrets. A trade secret, as defined by the Uniform Trade Secrets Act (UTSA), is information that derives independent economic value from not being generally known or readily ascertainable by others and that is the subject of reasonable efforts under the circumstances to maintain its secrecy. Here are five ways the pandemic and its effects could threaten trade secret protection.

  • Federal appellate court gives employers a win in overtime dispute

    The U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals (whose rulings apply to all Connecticut and Vermont employers) has sided with an employer in an overtime dispute. The decision is good news for employers and provides greater flexibility and forgiveness with respect to calculating overtime for employees.

  • What employers should know about screening, testing for COVID-19

    As businesses reopen, many employers have wondered what type of screening they may or should conduct for employees returning to work. In separate guidance documents, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have addressed questions about temperature screening, COVID-19 testing, and related issues concerning confidentiality and recordkeeping. Here's what you should know before implementing a screening or testing program.

  • OSHA releases guidance as nonessential businesses reopen

    On June 18, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released guidance to assist nonessential businesses as they reopen and return employees to the workplace. OSHA is charged with ensuring employers provide safe and healthful workplaces for their employees by setting and enforcing standards and providing employers with training and assistance. The guidance supplements OSHA's previously developed Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19 and the White House's Guidelines for Opening Up America Again. Specifically, the guidelines provide principles for three phases of reopening.

  • Racial tension coupled with COVID anxiety challenging workplaces in new ways

    It has been a long and tragic spring and summer for employers as well as society at large. The coronavirus pandemic sent legions of workers to the unemployment rolls, and others had to learn how to do their jobs remotely—all while dealing with the threat of an all-too-often deadly disease. Then, on May 25, came news of another black person dying in police custody, the latest in a string of such deaths. The viral video of George Floyd handcuffed on the ground with a white officer's knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes sparked outrage that erupted in massive protests across the country and abroad. Inequality and prejudice—not new issues in the workplace—came to the forefront, leaving many employers wondering what actions they should take.

  • Looking ahead after pandemic: Employers likely to see enduring change

    What's the world of work going to look like in the weeks and months ahead? Some workplaces in some parts of the country will be farther along the road to recovery than others, but few will go back to being just like they were before words like coronavirus, pandemic, and COVID-19 became all-consuming thoughts. The months of business shutdowns, remote work, and uncertainty have changed employee attitudes and employer practices—changes that are important for management to understand as employers move forward.

  • Cutting-Edge HR

    #RecoverStronger Initiative urges inclusive economic recovery. JFF, a nonprofit focusing on driving change to bring equitable economic advancement, in June announced its #RecoverStronger Initiative, which calls on "impact employers"—organizations focused on talent strategies that make a positive impact on workers and communities—to be leaders. The companies involved, including Microsoft, Walmart, Postmates, and other large employers, have committed to business values and practices that prioritize worker well-being and economic mobility in response to COVID-19. The members of the founding coalition also have vowed to stand against the forces of systemic racism. JFF's announcement says strategies include more inclusive hiring practices, development programs that help employees prepare for and thrive in a shifting labor market, total rewards programs that create greater job security and stability, and ethical offboarding strategies that help workers position themselves for new opportunities in growing fields.

  • Federal Watch

    DOL issues new wage and hour opinion letters. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced in late June five new opinion letters addressing compliance issues related to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The opinion letters are FLSA2020-6, addressing whether salespeople who travel to different locations to sell products using their employers mobile assets qualify for the outside sales exemption; FLSA2020-7, addressing whether an auto manufacturers direct payments to an auto dealerships employee may count toward the dealerships minimum wage obligation; FLSA2020-8, addressing whether salespeople who set up displays and perform demonstrations at retail locations not owned, operated, or controlled by their employer to sell the employers products qualify for the outside sales exemption; FLSA2020-9, addressing whether emergency-management coordinators employed by a county government qualify for administrative exemptions; and FLSA2020-10, addressing the application of the retail or service commission sales exemption.

  • HR Technology

    Big boost predicted for cloud-based Web conferencing solutions. Research and advisory company Gartner, Inc., is predicting 24.3% growth in 2020 of end-user spending on cloud-based Web conferencing solutions. Global workforce restrictions spurred by the coronavirus pandemic will expand the cloud conferencing user base throughout 2020, the company says. Growth is expected to taper off in 2021 as the lasting effects of a remote workforce render conferencing services commonplace. End-user spending on cloud-based conferencing is projected to reach $4.1 billion in 2020, up from $3.3 billion in 2019. It is the second-fastest growing category in the unified communications market, behind spending on cloud-based telephony, which is forecast to reach $16.8 billion in 2020. Gartner predicts that by 2024, in-person meetings will account for just 25% of enterprise meetings, a drop from 60% before the pandemic. The change will be driven by remote work and changing workforce demographics. As a result, there will be a higher demand for convenient access to videoconferencing and other collaboration tools.