Massachusetts News & Analysis

  • Parties settle first pay equity case under amended Massachusetts statute

    Back in October 2016, we reported the passage of An Act to Establish Pay Equity (Pay Equity Act), which amended the state's existing pay equity statute and went into effect in July 2018 (see "Massachusetts takes the lead in promoting pay equity" on pg. 1 of our October 2016 newsletter). Before the law's effective date, the Massachusetts attorney general issued long-awaited guidance, which we covered in April 2018 (see "Attorney general issues guidance on Massachusetts' new pay equity law" on pg. 1 of our April 2018 issue). Then, employers waited for Sunday, July 1, to arrive. And soon after it did, the first lawsuit was filed under the new law.

  • Walmart greeter fiasco provides important employment lessons

    Have you ever walked into a Walmart and been greeted by an employee—frequently disabled or elderly—who seemed to have no responsibilities other than to welcome customers to the store? Did you ever wonder what the point of the position was or why a corporation the size of Walmart would pay so many people to do it?

  • Do you know how to avoid a retaliation charge?

    Several years ago, we wrote about the unprecedented rise of retaliation claims, warning employers that employees were starting to make questionable (if not outright frivolous) discrimination and harassment complaints to gain legal protection from retaliation and try to thwart anticipated—and often justified—discipline or termination. We noted that such claims are independent and may succeed even when the discrimination or harassment claim that triggered the statute's protection fails.

  • Denial of lateral transfer might be adverse employment action

    When a current or former employee files an employment discrimination claim, the courts apply a three-part, burden-shifting analysis. In the first stage, the employee must prove he is a member of a protected class who suffered a materially adverse employment action, and there is a connection between the protected class and the adverse action. If he can meet this low threshold, the employer must then articulate legitimate, business-based reasons for its action. Once it has, the burden shifts back to the employee to show the employer's reason is false or that others who aren't in the protected class but are otherwise similar to the employee were treated differently.

  • What deductions can you make from an exempt employee's pay?

    Q One of our employees is caring for her daughter (over the age of 18) because of complications from childbirth. Does care of a child over 18 qualify for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)?

  • Union Activity

    Teamsters challenge effort to preempt California meal, rest break requirements. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters in February challenged the U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT) Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's decision to preempt California's meal and rest break rules. The International union, Teamsters Local 848, and individual truck drivers filed a petition for review with the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The DOT's decision would preempt California law that provides truck drivers with a 10-minute rest break after four hours of driving and a 30-minute meal break after five hours. "We are standing united in opposition to this decision," Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa said. "Highway safety for Teamster members and the public must never be put at risk just so that transportation corporations can eke out a little more profit." A preemption of California's law could affect members of Teamsters Local 848, which represents about 7,200 workers in Southern California, many of whom are commercial truck drivers.

  • Workplace Trends

    Most professionals negotiate salary offers, survey finds. Research from staffing firm Robert Half finds that 55% of professionals surveyed tried to negotiate a higher salary with their last employment offer, a 16-point jump from a similar survey released in 2018. Among workers in the 28 U.S. cities polled, Miami, San Diego, and San Francisco had the most respondents who asked for more pay, while Minneapolis, Philadelphia, and Cleveland had the fewest. A separate survey showed that 70% of senior managers said they expect some back-and-forth on salary. About six in 10 are more open to negotiating compensation than they were a year ago.

  • Wait, I can't do that? Top 5 obscure legal protections for employees

    Technically, Massachusetts is an "at-will" state, which means employers are free to terminate employees for any reason or no reason, with or without cause or advance notice. But there's a critical exception to the employment-at-will rule: An employee may not be terminated for any reason that's forbidden by law.

  • He who hesitates is not always lost

    Unpaid commissions continue to be a fertile source of litigation. The Massachusetts Wage Act includes in its definition of "wages" unpaid commissions under certain conditions. Whether those conditions are met can be a high-stakes determination now that the Act requires triple damages for successful claims. A recent case reveals a familiar narrative of unpaid commissions, a promise to pay, and a patient worker, up to a point.

  • A treatment plan for negative online employee reviews

    The Wall Street Journal recently reported on its discovery that, after analyzing millions of online reviews of various companies by their current and former employees, it appeared that more than 400 employers might be gaming the system. Each of the companies experienced unusually large single-month increases in the number of reviews posted by their employees to the jobs website Glassdoor. The surges tended to be disproportionately positive not only for the months in which they occurred but also by comparison to the surrounding months. The clear implication was that someone in a position of authority at the companies had spearheaded a campaign to get employees to post positive reviews to the site in an effort to counteract the overwhelmingly negative ones already posted.