Massachusetts News & Analysis

  • If I could turn back time: racing the clock on Title VII claims

    One question that frequently comes up when employers are sued for discrimination or harassment is how far back in time the court or administrative agency can look to determine whether there was any wrongdoing. In legalese, that's referred to as a statute of limitations, which sets a maximum amount of time for a person to file a legal claim after the alleged wrongdoing took place. Sometimes, an employer can get a case dismissed early on in the proceedings if the current or former employee waited too long to file the discrimination or harassment claim.

  • Looking to add an innovative benefit? Student loan assistance an option

    On a quest to recruit top talent, many employers are getting creative with perks and benefits. Free food and ping-pong tables are nice. So is a generous employer match on a 401(k). But many employees may not get too excited about perks and retirement benefits when they're struggling with student loan debt. And it's that financial burden that is leading employers to explore ways to ease the pain for their debt-ridden workers.

  • Inconsistent discipline and vague job descriptions keep Boston lawsuit alive

    Most employers know that consistently applying policies and practices, including hiring practices, is one of the keys to defending any discrimination or retaliation claims. For example, if someone accuses a business of failing to hire him because of his race or color, the business must show that it followed its normal hiring practices and the person it hired was more qualified than the person who's attempting to assert a discrimination claim based on the job's qualifications and requirements. In other cases, the employer must show that its actions were consistent with its actions in similar situations in the past. A recent Massachusetts case offers a reminder of just how important consistency can be when you're defending a lawsuit.

  • Changing laws, attitudes pushing employers to explore alternatives to drug tests

    Nobody wants an impaired person on the job, especially in a safety- sensitive position. But how can a supervisor know if an employee who seems a little off is high? And—perhaps more important—how can an employer screen applicants to reduce the chance of hiring someone who is likely to come to work impaired? The first thought may be to use drug testing, but that option isn't as simple as it once was.

  • Union Activity

    UAW calls for lower drug prices. In a September blog post, the United Auto Workers (UAW) called for Congress and the Trump administration to develop reforms to lower drug prices and end what the union called "Big Pharma's price gouging." The post said more than a dozen organizations, including the AFL-CIO and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), have joined forces in "support of American health and the ability of our citizens to receive the medications they need at an affordable cost." The union said the cost of prescription drugs is at a crisis level. The reason? Big Pharma's influence in Washington, D.C.

  • Workplace Trends

    Growing skills gap called serious drag on business. A new survey of HR leaders shows the skills gap grew by 12% since last year. According to the study "Closing the Skills Gap 2019" from Wiley Education Services and Future Workplace, 64% of the 600 HR leaders surveyed said there is a skills gap in their company, up from 52% in the 2018 report. This year, 44% of HR leaders reported it was more difficult to fill their skills gap than it was last year, and 42% said the skills gap was making their company less efficient. The report also found that 40% of employers estimate that a skill is usable for four years or less and that fast-paced obsolescence escalates the need to hire or train workers.

  • A year after pot shops go live, employers remain dazed and confused

    In November 2018, the first recreational marijuana dispensary in Massachusetts opened its doors to great fanfare in Northampton, sparking weeks of long lines, traffic jams, and media attention. In the 10 months since then, more than 20 other "pot shops" have cropped up across the Commonwealth, and the initial buzz has largely faded. But the rollout hasn't been all sunshine and rainbows, especially for employers, who may feel trapped in a cloud of pot-scented uncertainty when it comes to testing and disciplining employees for marijuana use.

  • Preparation, training help employers cope with unsettling ICE news

    The thought of immigration enforcement agents surrounding a workplace, seizing business records, questioning employees, and even making arrests is worrisome to say the least. But it has been and likely will continue to be a reality for many employers since audits and raids by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are on the upswing. Plus, the Social Security Administration has once again begun sending "no-match letters" to employers that have W-2 forms with mismatched names and Social Security numbers. Now referred to as educational correspondence (EDCOR) or an employer correction request (ECR), the letters require employers to take action to resolve the problem. So the signals are clear: Employers with undocumented workers are on notice that they face serious consequences.

  • Is the backlog back? MCAD issues its annual report

    The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD), the state agency to which employees must make an employment discrimination charge before filing suit in court, has issued its annual report for fiscal year (FY) 2018. As most of you already know, the backlog of cases at MCAD—i.e., cases that aren't resolved within 18 months—has led to long delays in the resolution of discrimination claims, causing employers and employees much frustration. Generally, 18 months is the projected turnaround time for any case filed with MCAD, but because of the growing number of complaints, that projected timeline has been missed in a number of cases.

  • New OT rule sparks questions beyond where to set salary threshold for 'exempt' status

    It has taken several years, but the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has finally issued its new final rule determining which employees can be exempt from the law requiring overtime pay. The new rule, slated to take effect January 1, 2020, is far more moderate than the Obama administration’s effort to update the salary threshold for the overtime exemption. A federal judge struck down that rule shortly before it was to go into effect in December 2016.