Beginning August 10, 2022, Colorado will drastically narrow the circumstances in which Colorado employers can seek to enforce noncompete and other restrictive employment agreements. Despite Colorado law already having a general restriction against the use of noncompete agreements, the Colorado General Assembly recently passed, and Gov. Jared Polis has now signed, HB 22-1317. With this bill, Colorado joins the growing number of states enacting increased employee protections against restrictive covenant agreements, including banning such agreements with workers earning below a certain threshold.
Clarification on Worker Status
In Nursing and Midwifery Council v Somerville  EWCA Civ 229, the Court of Appeal (CoA) considered whether an obligation on the part of a worker to perform a minimum amount of work was a prerequisite for worker status.
In April 2022, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz signed Frontline Worker Payments into law to aid Minnesotans who worked in one of 15 frontline sectors identified in the legislation. The public purpose of the law is to “provide payments to frontline workers whose work put them at risk of contracting COVID-19 during the peacetime emergency declared by the governor in Executive Order 20-01.” After the bill was signed into law, the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry (DOLI) was tasked with developing an application process and guidance for employers and employees to facilitate the frontline worker pay program. DOLI opened the application period for the program on June 8, 2022, announcing the period will remain open through July 22, 2022.
On May 23, 2022, the California Supreme Court ruled in Naranjo v. Spectrum Security Services, Inc. that unpaid meal and rest period premiums can form the basis of claims for wage statement violations under California Labor Code section 226 and waiting time penalties under California Labor Code section 203. This is yet another significant decision by the Supreme Court impacting California employers in California particularly since the Court overruled the Court of Appeal, which had held that meal and rest period premiums are not “wages” and therefore cannot lead to wage statement or waiting time penalties.
California law generally requires that employers provide non-exempt employees a reasonable opportunity to take an unpaid, off-duty and uninterrupted meal period of at least 30 minutes before the end of their fifth hour of work, and a second meal period before the end of their tenth hour of work. Employers also generally must provide 10-minute uninterrupted, paid rest periods to non-exempt employees for every four hours worked (or major fraction thereof). If an employer does not provide a compliant meal or rest period, the employee in question is entitled to payment of one hour of wages at the employee’s regular rate of pay. That extra hour of pay is often referred to as a meal or rest period “premium.”
As we have written about previously, an increasing number of states, and Washington, D.C., have limited the circumstances under which employers can bind their employees to non-compete and similar agreements, particularly when low-wage workers (however defined) are involved. The courts, however, are not immune to the trend, as evidenced by the April 21, 2022 decision from the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals, ADP, Inc. v. Levin. In that case, the Third Circuit affirmed a district court’s denial of a preliminary injunction against a senior executive who had resigned from his Chief Strategy Officer position at his prior employer, ADP, to take over the Chief Executive Officer position at rival Benefitfocus.
On April 4, 2022, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court held, in Reuter v. City of Methuen, that employers are strictly liable for treble wages as liquidated damages if they fail to make timely payments upon an employee’s termination of employment in compliance with the Massachusetts Wage Act. With its holding, the Court rejected a longstanding trial court precedent that employers who failed to make timely wage payments were liable only for treble interest.
The Massachusetts Wage Act
Section 148 of the Massachusetts Wage Act requires employers to pay unpaid wages to any employee discharged from employment “in full on the day of [the employee’s] discharge.” Mass. Gen. L. C. 149 § 148. As an enforcement mechanism, the Act provides a private right of action for employees and mandates that employees who prevail on § 148 claims “shall be awarded treble damages, as liquidated damages, for any lost wages and other benefits and shall be awarded the costs of litigation and reasonable attorneys’ fees.” The Act specifically defines “wages” to include, among other things, “any holiday or vacation payments due an employee under an oral or written agreement.”