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 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.”
On March 31, 2022, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) issued its second directive of the Biden administration, Directive 2022-02, titled “Effective Compliance Evaluations and Enforcement.” The policies outlined in the new directive signal the end of the contractor friendly policies of the Trump era and a return to an enforcement heavy compliance regime.
Directive 2022-02 revokes several Trump era directives including Directive 2018-06, Contractor Recognition Program (Aug. 24, 2018); Directive 2018-08, Transparency in OFCCP Compliance Activities (Sept. 19, 2018); Directive 2020-02, Efficiency in Compliance Evaluations (Apr. 17, 2020); and Directive 2021-02, Certainty in OFCCP Policies and Practices (Dec. 11, 2020). These policies were initially developed as a part of the OFCCP’s CERT initiative towards certainty, efficiency, recognition and transparency in compliance.
On March 31, 2022, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) opened the certification period for its new Federal Contractor Portal (Portal). Supply and service federal contractors and subcontractors (contractors) are required to certify the status of their annual affirmative action plans (AAPs) for each establishment before June 30, 2022.
As previously reported, the OFCCP opened the Portal for registration on February 1, 2022, allowing contractors to visit the site, register their company and validate their information. The OFCCP updated the resource landing page on its web page, which — in addition to a previously provided rollout timeline, user guide and FAQs — now includes additional FAQs addressing certification and registration, how-to videos, a user guide and one-page guides for registration and certification. Contractors are now required to register (if not done previously) and certify compliance.
On January 13, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court issued two significant opinions:
- In Nat’l Fed. of Independent Business v. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Supreme Court stayed enforcement of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) emergency temporary standard (ETS) related to COVID-19 prevention measures, holding that the groups and businesses challenging the standard were likely to succeed in showing that the ETS requirements exceeded OSHA’s statutory authority.
- In Biden v. Missouri, the Supreme Court lifted the stay of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Interim Final Rule (the CMS Rule) for health facilities that receive Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement, holding that the Secretary had statutory authority to issue the mandate.