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Workplace Compliance News & Resources
in New England

Below is a round-up of workplace safety news for New England states that employers need to know to keep their business compliant.

Stay on top of safety and compliance the right way with this information but be sure to seek legal counsel when you’re looking for how these changes will directly impact your business. Wherever available, KPA products are updated with the latest government notices and posters for employers.

Connecticut

Effective October 1, 2023: Connecticut Expands Paid Sick Leave Reasons for Service Workers

Who: Connecticut employers with at least 50 employees

When: Effective October 1, 2023

Beginning October 1, 2023, Connecticut’s Senate Bill 2 adds reasons service workers may take paid sick leave. Current law requires employers with 50 or more service workers to allow those workers to take state-paid sick leave for specific reasons. Service workers accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked, with a maximum accrual of 40 hours per year. Employers can roll unused paid sick leave over to the following year, with a rollover cap of 40 hours. Service workers are defined as employees in certain occupations (see the list of code numbers and titles published by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Classification system).

The additional reasons for paid sick leave are:

  • A mental health wellness day and
  • Safe leave if a child of whom they are a guardian or parent is a victim of family violence or sexual assault (for purposes of medical or psychological care, obtaining services from a victim services organization, relocating due said violence, or participating in related civil or criminal proceedings).

Employers in certain industries are exempt from the law, including education services, nationally chartered non-profits providing recreation, childcare, and certain manufacturing employers.

How:

  • Review and update your employee handbooks and policies to comply with the revised law.

Additional Resources:

SB 2

Service Workers Code Numbers and Titles

Connecticut Offers Health Insurance for Striking Employees

Who: Connecticut employers

When: When: Effective October 1, 2023

Effective October 1, 2023, a new Connecticut law makes unionized employees who are striking eligible to enroll in state-sponsored health insurance programs. Public Act No. 23-172, which was signed by Governor Ned Lamont on June 28, 2023, applies to employees whose health insurance benefits have been terminated because of a strike, lockout, or other labor dispute.

How:

  • Continue to monitor for updates.

Additional Resources:

Public Act 23-172

Connecticut Extends Employer Deadline to Register for MyCTSavings

Who: Connecticut employers with five or more employees

When: Register by August 31, 2023

The state-run Connecticut Retirement Security Program (MyCTSavings) was initially rolled out in phases based on the size of the employer. The original deadline of March 30, 2023, which was for employers with 5 to 25 employees, has been extended to August 31, 2023, by the State Controller’s office. This gives employers more time to register for the plan or claim an exemption.

The Connecticut Retirement Security Program applies to private employers with five or more employees when at least five of those employees were paid $5,000 or more in taxable wages the previous calendar year and the employer does not already offer a qualified, employer-sponsored retirement plan.

How:

  • Register or claim an exemption at MyCTSavings by August 31.

Additional Resources:

H.B. 6552

Connecticut Retirement Security Program

MyCTSavings

Effective July 1, 2023: Connecticut Passes Consumer Privacy Law

Who: Covered Connecticut individuals and businesses

When: Effective July 1, 2023

Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont signed SB 6, the Connecticut Data Privacy Act (CTDPA) into law on May 10, 2022, effective on July 1, 2023. Connecticut is the fifth state to adopt a consumer privacy law that protects consumers’ personal data businesses collect when consumers interact with them online. Personal data is defined as information that is linked or reasonably linkable to an identified or identifiable individual.

The law applies to individuals and businesses that produce products or services targeted to Connecticut residents AND in the preceding calendar year:

  1. Controlled or processed personal data of at least 100,000 Connecticut consumers (not including data collected solely to complete a sales transaction); OR
  2. Controlled or processed personal data of 25,000 Connecticut consumers and derived more than 25% of their gross revenue from the sale of personal data.

The following organizations are exempt from the law:

  • Nonprofit organizations,
  • Financial institutions that adhere to the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act,
  • National securities associations registered under federal law,
  • Higher education institutions,
  • Entities subject to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) or Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH), and
  • State and local governments.

Also exempt are protected health information under HIPAA, personal data regulated by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), and data processed or maintained in the course of employment.

The law requires Connecticut businesses to publicly share a privacy policy that notifies consumers which personal data the company is collecting and how the company is using that data. They must give consumers an option to opt out of their data being sold or shared. They must obtain consent from consumers under the age of 16 to collect their personal data. Companies may not discriminate against consumers who exercise their rights under the law.

Entities may not collect, store, use, share, or sell “sensitive personal data” without an individual’s express, freely given consent. Sensitive data is any genetic, precise geolocation, or biometric data, or data that reveals a person’s race, ethnic origin, religion, health conditions, sex life or orientation, or citizenship or immigration status. The CTCPA also restricts the entity’s ability to target advertising to children between the ages of 13 and 16.

Entities must minimize the amount of data they collect and store, use reasonable data security controls to secure the data, respond to requests by individuals asserting the rights granted to them under the law within 45 days, and conduct data protection assessments. “Controllers”—the ones who make the decision to collect the data—must enter into an agreement with any “processor”—one who processes the data—to demonstrate that all entities are meeting the requirements of the law.

Connecticut consumers have the right to request to:

  • Access, correct inaccuracies in, and/or delete their personal data;
  • Obtain a copy of their data in a portable format; and
  • Opt out of processing for purposes of targeted advertising, sale of their data, or profiling.

The Connecticut Attorney General is responsible for enforcing the law. Those that do not comply with the law can face a civil penalty of up to $5,000 per violation.

How:

  • Provide a privacy notice to consumers.
  • Review your privacy practices and policies to comply with the law, including the collection of personal and sensitive data, agreements with data processors, privacy notices, internal retention policies, security policies, and procedures and mechanisms for verifying and fulfilling consumer requests.

Additional Resources:

SB 6

The Connecticut Data Privacy Act

Effective Immediately: Connecticut Expands Clean Slate Law

Who: Connecticut employers

When: Effective immediately

Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont signed Public Act No. 21-32 into law on June 10, 2021, and it became effective on January 1, 2023. Known as the “Clean Slate” law, it allows for the automatic erasure of certain criminal records and expands protections for applicants and current employees.

After seven years from the date the court entered a judgment of conviction of a classified or unclassified misdemeanor, the record will be automatically erased. After 10 years from the date the court entered a judgment of conviction of a class D or E felony or an unclassified felony with a prison term of not more than five years, the record will be automatically erased. Family violence crimes and sexual offenses will not be erased.

Misdemeanor records for those who were under 18 at the time of the conviction will be erased automatically if the offense occurred on or after January 1, 2000, and before July 1, 2012. Individuals may petition the court for erasure for eligible offenses that occurred before January 1, 2000.

The Clean Slate law also prohibits employers from requiring applicants to disclose criminal records, denying employment based on erased crimes, or asking applicants about criminal history on a job application. The exception is if the job application clearly and conspicuously states that the applicant is not required to disclose erased criminal history information, with further explanation as described in the act. These prohibitions apply to current employees as well. Further, employers may not advertise job opportunities in a way that restricts the employment of individuals whose criminal records have been erased.

A wronged person may file a complaint with the Connecticut Labor Commissioner or the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities or bring an action in Connecticut Superior Court. Those who file a civil action may be entitled to injunctive relief, damages, and other remedies.

How:

  • Educate hiring managers and HR personnel on the provisions of the law.
  • Review your job applications and advertisements and update them as needed to comply with the law.
  • Review and update your equal employment opportunity policies as needed to comply with the law.
  • Ensure your background-check service providers comply with the law.

Additional Resources:

Public Act No. 21-32

Clean Slate CT

 

Effective Immediately: Connecticut Expands Anti-Discrimination Protections

Who: Connecticut employers with one or more employee

When: Effective immediately

Connecticut Public Act No. 22-82 went into effect on October 1, 2022. It amends the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act (CFEPA) to cover all employers with one or more employees. The law expands the definition of protected class to include victims of domestic violence and prohibits employers from discriminating against victims of domestic violence. The law applies to employees that work onsite and remotely.

The amendment prohibits employers from refusing to provide reasonable accommodation to an employee who needs to obtain services related to injuries caused by or relating to domestic violence, unless it would cause the employer undue harm. Employers must provide a leave of absence policy for victims of domestic violence. Employers may request certain information related to the request for leave, but they must maintain confidentiality.

Employers with three or more employees must post a domestic violence poster that provides information on domestic violence and resources.

There is no training requirement for private employers, but state agencies must provide at least one hour of domestic violence training by July 1, 2023.

Because the CFEPA requirements now apply to all employers, some may be newly subject to the pregnancy-related accommodation aspects of the law. In such cases, they will need to post a pregnancy discrimination poster in the workplace.

How:

  • Create a leave of absence policy to comply with the law.
  • Update your anti-discrimination policies to include victims of domestic violence as a protected class.
  • Create a pregnancy-related accommodation policy if needed.
  • If you have three or more employees, post a domestic violence poster.
  • If you have one or more employees, post the pregnancy discrimination poster.
  • Monitor the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities website for an updated Discrimination is Illegal poster and an updated Pregnancy Discrimination Poster.

Additional Resources:

Public Act No. 22-82

Connecticut Domestic Violence Resources Poster

Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities Posters

Connecticut Department of Labor Posters

Connecticut Legalizes Recreational Marijuana

Who: Connecticut employers

When: Effective immediately

What: Effective July 1, 2021 Connecticut legalized the use and possession of recreational marijuana by persons 21 years of age or older. Effective July 1, 2022, employers may not take action or discriminate against employees or applicants solely on the basis of a positive marijuana test, or on the basis that they use recreational marijuana outside of work.

There are exceptions to the law:

  • Workers in the mining, utilities, construction, manufacturing, transportation, education, healthcare, and social services industries;
  • Firefighters, emergency medical technicians, police officers; healthcare workers;
  • Those who care for children, medical patients, or vulnerable persons;
  • Drivers who must submit to drug testing in accordance with state or federal law;
  • Those whose work requires a Department of Defense or Department of Energy national security clearance;
  • Positions funded by federal grant;
  • Positions governed by a conflicting law;
  • Persons under an employment contract or collective bargaining agreement that conflicts with the law; and
  • Those who have a commercial driver’s license.

Employers do not have to allow use or possession of recreational marijuana at work. Employers may create a drug-free workplace policy, but they have to provide it to employees in writing in electronic or physical form. The employer may discipline the worker only where there’s reasonable suspicion of the worker’s use of cannabis while at work or the worker showed specific symptoms of drug impairment while working. Employers have the right to require drug testing and may take adverse action against those who fail a drug test in violation of a specific, written employer policy.

Employees may file suit in a state court against employers for alleged violations of the law. If successful, plaintiffs may be awarded job reinstatement, back wages, and attorneys’ fees.

How:

  • Review or create a drug and alcohol policy and ensure it complies with the law. Disseminate it in writing to your employees.
  • Update your employee handbook.
  • Review rules concerning random drug testing, pre-employment drug testing, reasonable suspicion testing, and accommodations for those who possess medical marijuana cards.
  • Reiterate to employees that they may not use or possess marijuana on the job, nor may they come to work under the influence of cannabis.
  • Provide training to managers on hiring, drug testing procedures, and impairment on the job.

Additional Resources:

Public Act No. 21-1

Provide Connecticut Notice of Employee Rights by July 1, 2022

Who: Connecticut employers

When: Effective July 1, 2022

What: Proposed amendments to the Connecticut Family and Medical Leave Act (CTFMLA) and Paid Leave Act (CTPL) may be approved on July 7, 2022. In the meantime, employers are required to provide the Connecticut Notice of Employee Rights, effective July 1, 2022. They must give the written notice to employees once a year and provide it to new employees upon hire.

The notice includes statements regarding:

  • Employees’ entitlement to job-protected leave provided under the CTFMLA and the terms under which they may use the leave;
  • How employees may file a claim for compensation under the CTPL;
  • Retaliation protections provided by the Acts; and
  • Employees’ right to file a complaint with the Labor Commissioner.

How:

  • Provide the Connecticut Notice of Employee Rights to employees by July 1, 2022.
  • Continue to monitor for the Connecticut Department of Labor for the approved Connecticut Family and Medical Leave Act and Paid Leave Act regulations.

Additional Resources:

Connecticut Notice of Employee Rights Under the Connecticut Family and Medical Leave Act & Paid Leave Act

Proposed Amended CTFMLA Regulations

The Connecticut Family & Medical Leave Act and CT Paid Leave Appeals

Effective July 1, 2022: Connecticut Bans “Captive Audience” Meetings at Work

Who: Connecticut employers

When: Effective July 1, 2022

What: On May 17, 2022, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont signed into law SB 163, “An Act Protecting Employee Freedom of Speech and Conscience.” The law goes into effect July 1, 2022, and amends Connecticut General Statute Section 31-51q. The amendment makes it illegal for employers to force employees to attend an employer-sponsored meeting where political or religious matters will be discussed. An employee may also refuse to listen to or view employer communication when the primary purpose of that communication is to communicate the employer’s opinion on religious or political matters, including their arguments against unionization.

Connecticut is the second state to enact this type of legislation. The intent is to make explicit employees’ right not to listen to political or religious speech at work. The amendment also specifies an employees’ constitutional rights to the right of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of association.

The law prohibits employer retaliation—or threat of retaliation—against an employee. It establishes a private right of action for an employee to recover lost compensation, attorney’s fees, and litigation costs.

How:

  • Consult with legal counsel to determine the risks associated with holding mandatory meetings where the primary purpose is to discuss political or religious matters.

Additional Resources:

SB 163

Connecticut to Release Amended FMLA Regulations

Who: Connecticut employers

When: Final regulations to be released in the next few months

What: The Connecticut Department of Labor requested comments on proposed amendments to the Connecticut Family and Medical Leave Act. The comment period was January 28, 2022, to February 28, 2022. The proposed regulations would significantly expand Connecticut’s FMLA law. The agency will release the final Connecticut Family and Medical Leave Act regulations within the next few months.

The proposed amendments include definitions of terms, the process used to verify familial relationships, and the process for an employee going directly to court with complaints of violations. The proposed regulations address other issues as well, such as fitness-for-duty requests, how to contact an employee’s medical provider regarding certifications and acceptable reasons for recertification requests.

How: Monitor for the release of the final FMLA regulations.

Additional Resources:

Proposed Regulations

Notice of Intent

Large Connecticut Employers Have Educational Assistance Program Reporting Obligations

Who: Connecticut employers with 100 or more employees

When: Effective immediately

What: As stipulated in Senate Bill 1202, Connecticut employers with 100 or more employees must notify Connecticut residents if they offer their employees an education assistance program under federal law. The first notification was to be given no later than December 1, 2021, and is to be given annually thereafter until December 1, 2024.

Under federal law, an education assistance program is “a separate written plan of an employer for the exclusive benefit of his employees to provide such employees with educational assistance.” If the employer offers an EAP, they must also notify their employees of the benefits included in the program and how an employee may enroll in the program.

The bill specifies that employees have no cause of action against an employer that does not offer such a program or that fails to notify employees about it.

How:

  • Update your policies to include the required notification of Connecticut residents and employees about your education assistance program.

Additional Resources:

SB 1202

Educational assistance programs

Connecticut Broadens Paid FMLA

Who: Connecticut employers

When: Effective January 1, 2022

What: In accordance with Public Act No. 19-25, beginning January 1, 2022, employees who have a qualifying event are entitled to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave in a 12-month period. The amended Connecticut Family and Medical Leave Act (CTFMLA) is more generous than the original, in that employees were previously allowed 16 weeks of leave in a 24-month period and the leave is now paid rather than unpaid. The law is applicable to all employers, even those with just one Connecticut employee. Employees are eligible for paid sick leave once they have been employed for at least three months.

Workers who have an incapacitating health issue related to pregnancy are entitled to an additional two weeks of paid CTFMLA starting January 1, 2022.

The amended CTFMLA has expanded the reasons an employee may take leave to include:

  • Adding children to their family through birth, adoption, or foster care
  • Serving as a bone marrow or organ donor
  • Caring for their own medical or psychological health condition
  • Caring for a family member who has a medical or psychological health condition
  • Dealing with family violence
  • Caring for a family member who was injured during active duty
  • Dealing with various other issues related to a family member being on active duty

The definition of family member was expanded to include grandparents, grandchildren, siblings, in-laws, and individuals related to employees by blood or who have a relationship that’s equal to a family relationship.

The Connecticut Department of Labor issued nonbinding guidance to employers regarding employees who request 16 continuous weeks of paid FMLA that would roll over into 2022. Their position is that employers should view leave status as of January 1, 2022, under the new law. In some instances, this will result in employees having leave capped at 12 weeks in calendar year 2022, even if their 16 weeks of leave was approved in 2021.

Persons who are employees as of December 1, 2021, can apply for paid family leave for January 2022 and after. The program is administered by the Connecticut Paid Leave Authority, and employees can apply through the agency’s website or via email, fax, phone, or mail.

Employers must post the Connecticut Paid Leave poster in the workplace.

How:

  • Assess how you will address leaves that span 2021 and 2022, and communicate that to affected employees.
  • Update your FMLA policies and forms to ensure compliance with the new law.
  • Modify your internal leave tracking systems as needed to comply with the law.
  • Post the Connecticut Paid Leave poster.

Additional Resources:

Public Act No. 19-25

Connecticut Paid Leave Website

Connecticut Paid Family Leave For Employers Website

Connecticut Department of Labor Released Guidance

Connecticut Paid Leave Poster

Connecticut Employer Toolkit

Maine

    Effective January 1, 2023: Maine Amends Final Wage Statute
    Who: Private Maine employers with 11 or more employees

    When: Effective January 1, 2023

    Governor Janet Mills signed into law H.P. 160 – L.D. 225, which amends the state’s existing final wage statute, effective January 1, 2023. Private employers with 11 or more employees must pay out unused, accrued vacation time upon an employee’s separation for any reason.

    The law applies regardless of the employer’s conflicting vacation policy, but does not apply to employees governed by a collective bargaining agreement. Employers must pay those wages in full no later than the employee’s next payday. Violators are subject to interest payments, fines, and penalties.

    The Maine Department of Labor will publish additional guidance on the Earned Paid Leave Law, final wages, and employees’ earned leave or personal time.

    How:

    • Update your paid time off, vacation, and Maine Earned Paid Leave Law (MEPL) policies to comply with the law.
    • Train HR personnel, supervisors, and managers on the law and its requirements.
    • Monitor the Maine Department of Labor website for additional guidance and updates.

    Additional Resources:

    H.P. 160 – L.D. 225

    Maine Department of Labor

    Who: Maine private employers

    When: Effective immediately

    In Maine, “An Act Concerning Nondisclosure Agreements in Employment,” was signed into law on May 12, 2022, and became effective on August 8, 2022. The law prohibits employers from requiring employees, job applicants, or interns to enter into contracts or agreements that have the purpose or effect of preventing employee disclosure or discussion of discrimination in the workplace or at work-related events, including harassment.

    The law also prohibits provisions in settlement, separation, and severance agreements that prevent an employee from disclosing factual information related to a discrimination claim, including harassment. The only exception is if the employee requests such provisions.

    In addition, the law prohibits nondisclosure agreements that prevent individuals from testifying or providing evidence in a discrimination claim, filing claims, reporting conduct to a law enforcement agency, or reporting to a federal or state agency that enforces employment or discrimination laws. Any settlement, separation, or severance agreement that includes any nondisclosure provision must, in fact, explicitly state that the employee retains these rights.

    The Maine Department of Labor may assess employers who violate the law with fines up to $1,000.

    How:

    • Consult with legal counsel to review your nondisclosure clauses and agreements and update as needed to comply with the law.
    • Continue to monitor the Maine Department of Labor for additional guidance.

    Additional Resources:

    H.P. 711 – L.D. 965: An Act Concerning Nondisclosure Agreements in Employment

     

    Who: Maine employers

    When: Effective July 19, 2022

    What: On April 20, 2022, Maine Governor Janet Mills signed LD 598, “An Act To Prohibit Discrimination in Employment and School Based on Hair Texture or Hairstyle.” The law is effective July 19, 2022, and amends the Maine Human Rights Act. It bans discrimination based on characteristics or traits that are associated with race, such as hair textures, Afro hairstyles, and protective hairstyles.

    The legislation is based on the CROWN Act, which was initiated in 2019 by Dove and the CROWN Coalition. CROWN stands for “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair.”

    How:

    • Update your dress code, and grooming, equal employment opportunity, anti-harassment, and anti-discrimination policies and procedures to comply with the law.
    • Train HR personnel, managers, and supervisors on the law.

    Additional Resources:

    Maine Title 5, Chapter 337: Human Rights Act

    LD 598

    Massachusetts

      Effective Immediately: Massachusetts Releases Updated Guidance on the Parental Leave Act

      Massachusetts Updates Paid Family and Medical Leave Act

      Who: Massachusetts employers

      When: Effective November 1, 2023

      Effective November 1, 2023, Massachusetts employers must give employees the option to supplement Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) with their accrued paid leave (i.e., paid time off (PTO), vacation time, sick time, or personal time) to replace up to 100% of their wages while on leave. Previously, employees did not have this option and could use their paid accrued leave only while they were waiting the required seven days for PFML benefits to kick in or in one block of time at the beginning or end of the PFML.

      The Massachusetts Department of Family and Medical Leave is also going to update its PFML contribution rates and weekly benefits, effective January 1, 2024. The maximum weekly benefit will increase slightly to $1,144.90. The tax rate will increase for employers with 25 or more employees to 0.88% of eligible wages, with the employer paying 0.42% and the employee paying 0.46%. For employers with fewer than 25 employees, the tax will increase to 0.46%, with the employer paying 0.28% and the employee paying 0.18%.

      How:

      • Monitor for the release of the new contribution and benefit rates and provide a notice to employees.
      • Monitor for additional guidance on how to calculate and incorporate accrued paid leave benefits.
      • Review your policies and update them as needed to comply with the law.

      Additional Resources:

      Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) overview and benefits

      Paid Family and Medical Leave Information for Massachusetts Employers

      PFML workforce notifications and rate sheets for Massachusetts employers

      Massachusetts

        Effective Immediately: Massachusetts Releases Updated Guidance on the Parental Leave Act

        Effective Immediately: Massachusetts Releases Updated Guidance on the Parental Leave Act

        Who: Massachusetts employers

        When: Effective immediately

        The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) has released updated guidance titled “Guidelines on the Massachusetts Parental Leave Act,” which address the 2015 Massachusetts Parental Leave Act (MPLA). The law provides for eight weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave to parents to prepare for and undertake the birth or adoption of each child aged 18 years old or younger, or a child aged 23 years or younger who has a mental or physical disability.

        A parent can take leave on a continuous, intermittent, or reduced schedule basis for a reasonable time before and within one year after the event. An employer has to agree before an employee can take leave intermittently or on a reduced schedule. An employee should provide two weeks’ notice when practicable, and employers may require that notice to be in writing. If both parents work for the same employer, they are entitled to a combined total of eight weeks of MPLA leave.

        Employees must be restored to their same or similar position with no loss of benefits or rights. Employees are entitled to their accrued vacation and sick time when they return from leave, even if they were on leave at the end of the employer’s “use-it-or-lose-it” time period for using the leave. Employers don’t have to count time taken as MPLA leave when computing benefits, including vacation, sick time, bonuses, seniority, or length-of-service credits, unless they do so for other types of leave.

        Employers cannot require employees to use their accrued vacation or other non-sick paid leave during an unpaid parental leave. But employers can require employees to use their time available pursuant to the Massachusetts Earned Sick Time statute.

        The Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) provides for 12 weeks of partial wage replacement during leave taken for a birth, adoption, or foster care placement of a child. MPLA leave runs concurrently with PFML and federal Family and Medical Leave Act leave.

        Employers must provide parental leave on an equal basis, regardless of sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, or any other protected class under Massachusetts law.

        How:

        • Post a notice with information on pages 24 and 25 of the MCAD Guidelines on Parental Leave.
        • Update your policies and procedures to comply with the law.

        Additional Resources:

        Parental Leave in Massachusetts

        Guidelines on the Massachusetts Parental Leave Act (May 17, 2023)

        Know Your Rights: A Brief Guide to the Massachusetts Parental Leave Act (May 17, 2023)

        Department of Family and Medical Leave

        Who: Massachusetts employers

        When: Effective January 1, 2023

        For employers that have private healthcare plans, New Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave Act (PFMLA) contribution rates go into effect January 1, 2023.

        For employers with 25 or more employees, the family contribution is 0.11% of eligible wages, and the medical contribution is 0.52%, which totals 0.63%. The 2022 rate was 0.68%. For employers with 24 or fewer employees, the family leave contribution is 0.11% and the medical leave contribution is 0.208%, which totals 0.318%.

        Employers must collect and remit the funds, but they are not required to contribute to family or medical leave. The maximum weekly benefit will increase from $1,084.31 in 2022 to $1,129.82 in 2023.

        Employers must post the 2023 PFML poster in the workplace, provide the 2023 notice to employees, and provide the 2023 rate sheets to all employees.  The 2023 PFML workplace poster, 2023 notice to employees, and 2023 rate sheets were released  in late November 2022. Employers must have issued the required notification to all current employees by December 2, 2022, or face fines of up to $50 for each employee for the first violation and $300 per employee for subsequent violations. Employers must provide notification within 30 days of hire to all new employees.

        On December 4, 2022, the Governor vetoed a bill with proposed material changes to the PFML law that would have allowed flexibility of paid leave benefits.  The current law remains in place but with the new contribution rates.

        How:

        • If you haven’t already, provide the required notice to employees by December 2, 2022.
        • Provide the notice to all new employees within 30 days of hire.
        • Post the 2023 PFML poster in the workplace and provide the 2023 rate sheets to all employees.
        • Update your PFML policies and payroll system to reflect the new rates.

        Additional Resources:

        2023 PFML Mandatory Workplace Poster English

        2023 PFML Mandatory Workplace Poster Spanish

        PFML workforce notifications and rate sheets for Massachusetts employers

        Informing your workforce about Paid Family and Medical Leave Written Notice Requirements

        Who: Massachusetts employers

        When: Effective October 24, 2022

        What: On July 26, 2022, Governor Charlie Baker signed into law the Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair Act (CROWN Act), effective October 24, 2022. The law expands the definition of race across Massachusetts statutes as they apply to the prohibition of discrimination on the basis of race. The definition of race now includes “traits historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture, hair type, hair length, and protective hairstyles.”  Protective hairstyles are defined as “braids, locks, twists, Bantu knots, hair coverings, and other formations.”

        The intent of the legislation is to prohibit racial discrimination based on hairstyle in employment, education, public accommodations, and housing.

        If an employee proves their employer discriminated against them in violation of this law, they may be entitled to recover economic and compensatory damages, punitive damages, and reasonable attorneys’ fees.

        How:

        • Update your employee handbook and related policies governing dress and appearance to comply with the law.
        • Train HR personnel, managers, and supervisors on the new protections.

        Additional Resources:

        Chapter 117 of the Acts of 2022

        H.4554

        H.5028

        Who: Massachusetts employers

        When: Effective immediately

        What: On April 4, 2022, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in the case of Reuter v. City of Methuen. The court said that employers are liable for more than the previously legislated accrued interest on late payment of final wages to employees. Those final wages are due on the date of termination for employees who are terminated or the day after the day of resignation for employees who resign, in accordance with Massachusetts Wage Act, G.L. c. 149, §148. Final wages must include payment for all unused vacation time.

        In light of the recent ruling, employees may recover as damages three times the amount of the late-paid compensation, plus attorney’s fees. In addition, employers must remember that they may not assert a “good faith” defense to the failure to pay wages on time under the Wage Act. Employers should consider suspending an employee that they intend to terminate for bad conduct, in order to give themselves time to correctly calculate the amount due for final wages and vacation time before the actual termination.

        How:

        • Review your policies regarding payment of final wages to ensure compliance with the law.

        Additional Resources:

        Massachusetts Wage Act

        Reuter v. City of Methuen

        Who: Massachusetts employers

        When: Effective immediately

        What: On December 17, 2021, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that an employer cannot retaliate against an employee based only on the fact that the employee filed a rebuttal to be included in their personnel file. The finding is based on a public-policy exception to the at-will employment rule. In this case, specifically, the Court held that the rights created under the personnel records law (i.e., the right to rebut information an employer adds to an employee’s personnel file that may negatively affect their employment circumstances) is an assertion of a legally guaranteed right (see Massachusetts General Laws, Part I, Title XXI, Chapter 149, Section 52C).

        The Court also said that an employer cannot terminate employment based solely on what the employee writes in the rebuttal, no matter how “intemperate or contentious” the employer deems it. The only exceptions are for “threats of personal violence, abuse, or similarly egregious responses.”

        How:

        • Ensure you have sufficient legal reason to terminate employment without considering an employee’s rebuttal or its contents.

        Additional Resources:

        Terence Meehan vs. Medical Information Technology, Inc.

        Who: Massachusetts employers

        When: Effective January 1, 2022

        What: Beginning January 1, 2022, the maximum weekly benefit an employee can receive under the Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave Act (PFMLA) will be $1,084.31, up from $850 in 2021.

        The contribution rate for employers with 25 or more covered individuals will decrease from 0.75% of eligible wages in 2021 to 0.68% of eligible wages in 2022. For employers with fewer than 25 covered individuals, the employer contribution rate is 0.344% of eligible wages.

        Employers must poster an updated PFMLA notice and give the notice to all new hires.

        How:

        • Update your PFML policies and payroll systems to ensure they comply with the new limits.
        • Update your employee handbook and other employee communications with the new contribution and benefit amounts.
        • Post the PFMLA employee notice and workforce notifications.

        Additional Resources:

        Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave Poster English

        Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave Poster Spanish

        Massachusetts Workforce Notifications

        Massachusetts Department of Family and Medical Leave

        Effective Immediately: Massachusetts COVID Paid Sick Leave to End April 1, 2022

        Who: Massachusetts employers and employees

        When: Effective immediately

        What:

        Update 3/15/2022: The COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Leave program has expired following the exhaustion of the $100 million program fund.

        Massachusetts’ COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Leave program has been extended from September 2021 to April 1, 2022. The provisions of the program, found within Bill H.3702 remain unchanged following the extension.

        Employers are expected to continue to provide their employees with proper notice of the program’s extension and post relevant information in the workplace. Notices must be sent electronically to remote workers, as well as posted on the employer’s website.

        With the announcement of the extension, qualifying reasons for sick leave have also been updated to reflect time off related to immunization. The program now includes a provision granting an employee’s PTO to be used to care for a relative who is “obtaining immunization related to COVID-19 or is recovering from an injury, disability, illness or condition related to such immunization.”

        Employees who have already used all 40 hours PTO provided by the Paid Sick Leave program prior to the extension will not be granted additional leave.

        How:

        • Review your current policies and procedures and update them to comply with the bill.
        • Provide all employees with proper notice of the paid leave program and post the required provisions within the workplace.

        Additional Resources:

        Bill H.3702

        Massachusetts COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Leave­­—Notice to Employees (English)

        Massachusetts COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Leave­­—Notice to Employees (Spanish)

        COVID-19 Temporary Emergency Paid Sick Leave Program

        Rhode Island

          Effective January 1, 2023: Rhode Island Passes Pay Equity Law
          Who: Rhode Island employers

          When: Effective January 1, 2023

          The Pay Equity Act of Rhode Island goes into effect on January 1, 2023. The purpose is to ensure employers are compensating employees the same way for the same work. When employees are performing comparable work, employers are prohibited from paying any employee for that work at a wage rate less than the rate paid to an employee of another race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, disability, age (40 or over), or country of ancestral origin.

          Comparable work is defined as work that, as a whole, requires “substantially similar skill, effort, and responsibility, and is performed under similar working conditions.” There are exceptions for pay disparity, which are:

          • Seniority or merit system, or one that pays according to quantity or quality;
          • Geographic location;
          • Shift differentials;
          • Job-related education, training, or experience;
          • Work-related travel; and
          • Any other bona fide job-related factor.

          Employers must provide a wage range for a position to new hires, to employees that move to a new position, and to any employee upon request. Employers must provide a wage range to an applicant who requests one.

          Employers may not inquire about or rely on the wage history of an applicant or use it to make hiring or wage decisions. If an applicant voluntarily provides a wage history, an employer may use the information to justify an increase in compensation, but only after the employer has made an initial offer.

          An employer cannot reduce any employee’s wages to comply with the law, and employees cannot agree to be paid less than the wage they are entitled to under the law. Though other legislation made it illegal to prevent employees from discussing their pay, this law makes the prohibition clear. It also contains an anti-retaliation provision and prevents employers from requiring employees to agree not to discuss their wages.

          The law applies to employees who live and work in Rhode Island, hybrid employees, and employees who live out of state whose primary place of work is in Rhode Island. Employers must post the Department of Labor and Training notice that explains the rights of employees under the amended law.

          Employers that violate the equal pay law may be liable for unpaid wages, compensatory damages, up to $10,000 in special damages, liquidated damages of up to twice the amount of unpaid wages and benefits, equitable relief, punitive damages, and civil penalties of up to $5,000, plus attorneys’ fees and costs. Employers can avoid liability through June 30, 2026, if they can show they conducted a pay practices self-evaluation within two years preceding the filing of a pay equity lawsuit and paid all employees back wages within 90 days of the discovery of unlawful wage differentials.

          How:

          • Post the employee notice once it has been released by the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Industry.
          • Refer to the Rhode Island Department of Labor Self Evaluation Guidance and Pay Equity Excel Spreadsheet when conducting a pay equity self-evaluation.

          Additional Resources:

          S 0270A

          State of Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training Pay Equity Act

          Who: Rhode Island employers

          When: Effective immediately

          What: On June 28, 2022, Rhode Island Governor Daniel McKee signed into law HB 7510—a tip-protection law that mirrors almost all of the tip-related rules in the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The law was effective upon signing and prohibits employers from retaining any portion of tipped employees’ tips. A tipped employee is one who customarily and regularly receives more than $30 per month in tips.

          The law contains a limited exception for credit card charges. The employer may retain the percentage of the sale it must pay the credit card company when a customer tips on a credit card, if said deduction meets three criteria:

          1. The deduction can’t reduce the employee’s wage below the state’s minimum wage ($12.25 per hour);
          2. The employer must inform the employee of the deduction; and
          3. The employer has to pay the tips due to the employee by the next regular payday.

          The amount deducted for credit card charges doesn’t count toward an employee’s tips. It does count toward an employer’s minimum wage and overtime obligations.

          The new law does not preclude the establishment of a tip pool, as long as the employer meets the following requirements:

          • Notifies employees of the required tip pool contribution amount;
          • Takes a tip credit only for the amount of tips each employee receives;
          • Limits the pool to non-exempt employees; and
          • Does not retain any portion of tips except for actual charges assessed by the credit card company or as required for distribution to the tip pool.

          How:

          • Update your tip-related policies and procedures as needed to comply with the new law.

          Additional Resources:

          HB 7510

          Who: Rhode Island employers

          When: Effective immediately

          What: On May 25, 2022, Rhode Island Governor Dan McKee signed SB 2430A into law, which legalizes recreational marijuana, effective immediately. Rhode Island is the 19th state to legalize cannabis. Adults aged 21 and older can now possess up to an ounce of cannabis. Adults may also grow cannabis in their primary residence and possess up to 10 ounces in addition to their live cannabis plants.

          Employers are not required to accommodate use or possession of marijuana in any workplace where the employee is performing work, including any place the employee works remotely. Employers may also prohibit being under the influence of marijuana at work.

          Employers have the right to refuse to hire an applicant or take adverse employment action against an employee for violating the company’s drug policy. In general, employers may not take adverse employment action based solely on an employee’s private, lawful use of cannabis if the employee isn’t working while under the influence. Employers are allowed to prohibit the use or consumption of cannabis within 24 hours of a shift when such use would be hazardous, dangerous, or essential to public welfare and safety.

          Persons previously convicted of the possession of marijuana will have their criminal records expunged beginning July 1, 2024.

          How:

          • Ensure your drug-testing policies and practices comply with the law.

          Additional Resources:

          SB 2430A

          Effective Immediately: Rhode Island Mandates Face Covering

          Who: Rhode Island employers and employees

          When: Effective immediately

          Update 2/11/22: Governor McKee announced an end to the indoor public face mask requirement, along with proof of vaccination requirements for indoor public areas. Federal face mask requirements for public transportation in Rhode Island continue to stay in place for the time being

          What: Rhode Island Governor McKee issued a masking mandate through executive order 21-116, which requires indoor businesses, manufacturers, and other public or private employers to require staff, employees, and patrons to wear a face covering while on premises or provide a proof of vaccination against COVID-19. The mandate went into effect on December 20th, 2021 and will be re-evaluated within the following 30 days and is set to expire on January 18, 2022.

          Under the new mandate, businesses can decide which of the following policies to adopt for employees and patrons:

          • A universal indoor masking requirement
          • A universal vaccine requirement
          • The option for employees and patrons to either wear a mask or provide proof of vaccination

          A copy of the original vaccine card, a photo of the vaccine card, or an app component are all considered satisfactory proof of vaccination.

          Per the new mandate, face coverings will be required for everyone, regardless of vaccination at indoor venues with a capacity of 250 people and above. Staff members and patrons of venues with a capacity of less than 250 will be given the option to either wear a face covering or show proof of vaccination. These venues include shopping centers, retail stores, restaurants, and entertainment establishments.

          Establishments will be required to post signage at the entrance of their premises communicating the policy they choose.

          Exemptions to these requirements apply for:

          • Infants under the age of 2-years old.
          • Individuals whose health would be compromised by wearing a mask.
          • Individuals who are developmentally unable to comply.

          Governor McKee has also requested 1 million rapid COVID-19 tests from FEMA to be distributed across the state in the coming weeks.

          The state of Rhode Island has updated its Reopening RI website with the latest signage for businesses along with an FAQ document for the latest mask and proof of vaccination policy.

          How:

          Review your current policies and procedures and update them to comply with the new bill.

          Educate and inform your employees about state mandates and safety protocols.

          Additional Resources:

          Executive Order 21-116 (December 16, 2021)

          Advisory Regarding Face Coverings and Cloth Masks

          Indoor Masking and Vaccination Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

          Rhode Island Department of Health COVID-19 Resources

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