Massachusetts News & Analysis

  • Guidance for employers as 'Strike for Black Lives' unfolds

    On July 20, 2020, organizers and labor organizations across the country held a "Strike for Black Lives"—a national walkout of workers in support of "dismantling racism and white supremacy to bring about fundamental changes in our society, economy and workplaces." To limit liability and keep their businesses running, employers must understand employees' legal rights to participate in a one-day political strike. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has interpreted the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) to provide important protections to employees who engage in such strikes, and employers should respect the analysis and respond accordingly.

  • Bracing for COVID-19 exposure and legal liability in Maine

    On August 3, the Wall Street Journal reported on a recent wave of COVID-19 litigation against employers for allegedly failing to protect employees from the virus at work. In an effort to minimize employers' exposure to the costly litigation, Republican senators recently introduced the Safe to Work Act (SWA), which would shield many organizations from "coronavirus-related" legal actions, particularly with respect to claims alleging exposure to the contagion.

  • Updated Title IX regs change way colleges respond to harassment

    The U.S. Department of Education (DOE) recently published its long-awaited final regulations under Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, the federal law that protects individuals from discrimination based on sex in education programs and activities. The regulations, which took effect August 14, 2020, significantly change how covered educational institutions must respond to sexual harassment allegations.

  • DOL issues new FMLA forms

    On July 20, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued new notice and certification forms for employers to use when administering Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave. Although you can continue to rely on the old forms, the new versions are simpler and easier to use. Further, the forms can be completed online and saved electronically. You can find them here: https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/fmla/forms .

  • What businesses should know about OSHA's supplemental reopening guidance

    The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently issued guidance on returning to work for businesses deemed nonessential. The guidance is intended to supplement the agency's previously issued guidance on preparing workplaces for COVID-19 as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) guidelines for "Opening Up America Again." OSHA's guidance is also supposed to supplement state and local information and reopening requirements. You can use the guidance to develop policies and procedures to ensure your employees' safety and health.

  • Discord over foreign workers has long history, elusive solution

    The fate of foreign workers in the United States remains up in the air amid the worldwide public health crisis and political disputes related to immigration and foreign worker programs. The COVID-19 pandemic had already slowed or stopped authorization of many foreign workers when the Trump administration in June restricted visas for some classes of foreign workers. The administration's action came on the heels of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that was at least a temporary win for certain young immigrant workers already in the United States. Then President Donald Trump hinted at more change on the way for those immigrants. So, the signals are mixed, making uncertainty the key word for foreign workers and their employers.

  • Adapt or die? Looking ahead to a post-COVID workplace

    It didn't take a worldwide public health crisis to pique people's curiosity about what the workplace of the future will look like. Managers and frontline staff alike have always pondered the best designs for productivity, efficiency, and safety. But COVID-19 has changed everything. The workplaces that are reopening in many cases have a different look and feel than anyone expected prepandemic. Temperature checks at building entrances, plexiglass barriers, spaced-out desks, and occupancy limits for elevators are just a few of the changes now in place in many workplaces. Some of the modifications may be short-lived, but experts, including designers and futurists, expect others will be long-term or even permanent.

  • Q - A: Accommodations should allow employees to fulfill essential job functions

    Q We're planning to allow employees with underlying health conditions to telecommute as a temporary reasonable accommodation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Based on our assessment, however, they could perform only 50 percent of their essential functions from home. Can we modify their pay rate accordingly?

  • Cutting-Edge HR

    Poll shows confidence in remote work. A recent edition of LinkedIn's Workforce Confidence Index released in May gives HR professionals food for thought as they consider the future. The survey shows that 55% of respondents think their industry can be effective when people work remotely. Optimism is strongest in such fields as software, finance, and media, a LinkedIn blog post said. But remote work is a "polarizing topic" in other sectors in which in-person interaction is crucial, according to the blog. Forty-eight percent of respondents in health care were optimistic about remote work, and 41% in manufacturing were keen on the idea. The most resistance was noted in retail, with just 29% of insiders thinking their industry could thrive with remote work. The poll included 5,447 LinkedIn members and covered the week of April 27 to May 3.

  • Federal Watch

    DOL offering unemployment fraud prevention resources. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has issued updated resources for employers, employees, and states to prevent fraud or misuse in the unemployment insurance system, including the unemployment insurance programs under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The DOL in May released resources that include lists of fraud hotlines and frequently asked questions. The agency reminded employers and employees of their obligations to report fraud, waste, or abuse. Examples of employer fraud include acting to avoid tax liability and establishing fictitious employer accounts to enable fraudulent claims, the DOL said. Claimant fraud may include knowingly submitting false information, knowingly continuing to collect benefits when ineligible, certifying for benefits under state law while not being able and available to work, or intentionally collecting full benefits while not reporting wages or income.