Massachusetts News & Analysis

  • Supreme Court rules in favor of LGBTQ+ employees

    On June 15, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled LGBTQ+ workers are protected by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII prohibits discrimination in the workplace because of an employee's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Previously, federal courts were split on whether Title VII protected LGBTQ+ workers from employment discrimination based on sex. That meant employees in 28 states could be lawfully terminated based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. The ruling in favor of three employees fired for their sexual orientation or gender identity is a landmark because it affords LGBTQ+ employees with federal civil rights in the workplace. In a Facebook post on Monday, EqualityMaine called it "a major step forward . . . to once again reaffirm the dignity of LGBTQ Americans."

  • COVID-19 at work: Navigating ADA obligations for high-risk individuals

    As states reopen their economies and allow employees to return to their physical offices, employers need to consider a multitude of issues, including how to comply with employment laws in an entirely new environment. In a recent update to its COVID-19 technical assistance publication, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) provides guidance to employers on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and its impact on employees who, because of underlying medical conditions, have been identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as being at high risk for severe illness from the coronavirus.

  • Preparing for summer with kids at home: FFCRA and unemployment options

    Many of us have worked from home over the past few months, some with kids in tow. With the school year at an end, COVID-19 may thwart plans to send the kids off to summer camp or day camp. Parents who find themselves in a bind for summer childcare may have options under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and Maine unemployment provisions, and employers should closely analyze each employee's unique circumstances.

  • Recent decisions clarify 'constructive discharge' in Connecticut

    Two recent decisions clarify when employees have been "constructively discharged" and can sue for wrongful "termination" even though the employer never fired them—they instead resigned or retired. Both the federal and state courts looked at these claims under federal and state law within the past couple of months.

  • NH employees face tall task proving they caught COVID-19 at work

    Will New Hampshire employers be liable to employees who contract COVID-19 on the job? Governor Chris Sununu's economic reopening task force recently posed the question to Attorney General Gordon J. MacDonald. Employers will be pleased with his two key conclusions.

  • RI Supreme Court confirms 'low standard' for determining if employees are high

    On May 29, 2020, the Rhode Island Supreme Court upheld a lower court decision finding an employer had "reasonable grounds" to believe its employee may be under the influence of a controlled substance and it could therefore fire him for refusing to take a drug test. It made no difference to the court that the employee carried a medical marijuana card or refused to take the test because of his medical marijuana usage—or even that he didn't exhibit physical signs normally associated with drug use (e.g., bloodshot eyes, slurred speech). According to the court, it was enough for the employer to show its managers' contemporaneous observations of the employee could reasonably lead them to believe he may be under the influence of a controlled substance.

  • Small claim with a big impact: Side agreement can't violate a CBA

    A recent decision by the Vermont Supreme Court should prompt unionized employers to examine any standard employment agreements employees are required to sign that may conflict with a collective bargaining agreement (CBA)—particularly when any attempts to claw back salaries for trainees who don't complete their commitments are concerned.

  • Conducting background checks before employment offer has been accepted

    Q If we've made a job offer but the prospective employee hasn't accepted it yet, do we have to wait to conduct a background check?

  • 5 employment policies to revise or add because of coronavirus

    If you're like most businesses, you're eager to reopen or return to "normal" operations as soon as possible. But before you reopen your offices and businesses—and perhaps while you have some extra time on your hands—it's a good idea to dust off and update your employment policies to account for the new coronavirus world we now live in. Here are some of the key policies you may want to think about.

  • Must Maine employers provide compensation for COVID-19 temperature checks?

    In light of the coronavirus pandemic, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is permitting employers to take employees' temperatures, administer COVID-19 tests, and otherwise screen employees for COVID-19 symptoms. Over the next several months, employees may spend extra time in lines awaiting screening protocol. Must they be compensated while awaiting and undergoing COVID-19 screenings in the workplace? In this article, we revisit Frlekin v. Apple, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), and the Portal-to-Portal Act for guidance.