By Daniel B. Klein and Christopher W. Kelleher

Seyfarth Synopsis: While we await the proposed regulations due by March 31, 2019, the new Department of Family and Medical Leave has provided several points of clarification of which employers should be aware, as we gear up for implementation of the Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) Law.

As we previously reported, last summer, the Massachusetts Legislature passed the “Grand Bargain” bill, which will gradually raise the minimum wage, will phase out the time-and-a-half premium pay requirement for retail workers on Sundays and holidays, and will provide paid family and medical leave to Massachusetts workers. The Department of Family and Medical Leave is required to publish proposed regulations for public comment by March 31, 2019.

In the meantime, however, the Department has posted FAQs online that provide some points of clarification on the new PFML Law, and employers should take note of a few key highlights:

  • We already knew that beginning July 1, 2019, all Massachusetts employers will be required to contribute to the Family and Employment Security Trust Fund at an initial contribution rate of 0.63% of each employee’s wages. The Department has now clarified that the contribution will be limited to 0.63% on the first $128,400 of an individual’s annual earnings (note that this figure may be adjusted annually);
  • In addition, while inconsistent drafting in the PFML Law caused some debate regarding the start date for employees being able to claim leave benefits, the Department has clarified the starting dates as follows:
    • On January 1, 2021, employees can begin claiming benefits for bonding with a child or newborn; service-member related events; and dealing with the employee’s own serious health condition; and
    • On July 1, 2021, employees can begin claiming benefits to care for a family member with a serious health condition.

The recent updates including the Department’s FAQs can be found here for employers and here for employees, and it should be noted that the State may continue to tinker with the FAQs leading up to the March 31 deadline for proposed regulations. We will continue to provide updates as to any significant events that occur with respect to the PFML Law.

If you have any questions regarding this or any related topic please contact the authors, your Seyfarth Attorney, or any member of Seyfarth Shaw’s Workplace Counseling & Solutions or Absence Management and Accommodations Teams.

By Michael Fleischer, Jean Wilson, and Barry Miller

Synopsis: Massachusetts Attorney General investigates 70 employers (both large and small – across all industries), citing 21 of them for violating the state’s “ban the box” law, which prohibits most businesses from asking about job candidates’ criminal backgrounds on initial employment applications.

Last week, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healy announced that her office conducted an investigation into the employment applications of more than 70 Boston-area businesses to determine if they violated the Commonwealth’s “ban the box” law. That law prohibits most employers from asking job applicants about their criminal history on initial applications, subject to limited exceptions. The employers investigated ranged from a restaurant chain to a skin care company to a book store.

The Attorney General entered into agreements with four large employers that have multiple locations in Massachusetts. In conjunction with those agreements, three of the companies were fined $5,000 each, and all were required to alter their application process to comply with the law’s requirements. The Attorney General also sent warning letters to an additional 17 employers, noting that they must take immediate steps to comply with Massachusetts law, and remove questions on their initial job applications that ask questions about applicants’ criminal histories. The improper questions included whether applicants have been convicted of violating the law, whether they had been convicted of a crime or offense other than a minor traffic violation, and if they have ever been convicted of a felony.

The Attorney General’s announcement of this enforcement activity comes on the heels of the Commonwealth’s recent passage of a criminal justice reform bill that becomes effective on October 13, 2018, and further restricts the questions that an employer may ask about an applicant’s criminal history following an initial employment application.

The Attorney General stated that the investigation was part of a larger, ongoing effort by her office to help educate businesses about the law, and to ensure that an individual’s criminal history is not used improperly to deny access to employment. This serves as a reminder to employers to review their hiring-related documents to ensure compliance with evolving legal requirements. Even if applicants do not complain about violations or assert legal claims, the Attorney General is engaged in proactive efforts to make sure that employers in the Commonwealth comply.

If you would like further information, please contact the authors, your Seyfarth attorney, or any member of the Seyfarth Background Screening Compliance & Litigation Team.