Massachusetts Employers Be Warned: Telling Employees “Your Wages are Coming, Your Wages are Coming” May Lead to Treble Damages

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.”

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NYC Releases Fact Sheet on Salary Transparency Requirements in Job, Transfer and Promotion Advertisements – While the City Council Debates Delaying Enactment of the New Law

Employers face new challenges in navigating state and local pay equity laws. New York City joins a number of other jurisdictions that now require employers to disclose pay ranges when advertising job postings – including for incumbents as well as new hires. This law is set to take effect on May 15, 2022 (unless delayed by pending legislation discussed below). The New York City Commission on Human Rights (the “NYCCHR”) recently published a fact sheet providing guidance with regard to Local Law 32 of 2022 (the “NYC Law”). The NYC Law requires all covered employers to include a minimum and a maximum salary in any advertisement for a job, promotion, or transfer opportunity.

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State & Local Employment Law Developments: Q1 2022

The first quarter of 2022 continued the trend of increasing regulation of the workplace by state and local governments. Although it is not possible to discuss all state and local laws, this update provides an overview of recent and upcoming legislative developments to help you and your organization stay in compliance. (Please note that developments related to issues such as minimum wage rates and COVID-19 are not included.)

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Supreme Court Decides Badgerow v. Walters

On March 31, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Badgerow v. Walters, No. 20-1143, reversing the Fifth Circuit, and holding that federal courts may only look to the application to confirm or vacate an arbitral decision in assessing jurisdiction.

Denise Badgerow initiated an arbitration action against Greg Walters, Thomas Meyer, and Ray Trosclair (collectively, Walters) alleging unlawful termination under federal and state law. The arbitrators sided with the employer and dismissed Badgerow’s claims. Badgerow then sued Walters to vacate the arbitral decision in state court. Walters removed the lawsuit to federal court and applied to confirm the arbitral award. The district court determined that it had jurisdiction over the pending applications using a look-through approach that considered the substance of the parties’ underlying substantive dispute, which raised federal-law claims. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed.

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Multinational Companies Operating in Russia Must Be Aware of Recent Restrictions on Disseminating Certain Information

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, the Russian government has imposed several restrictions that may affect employers with operations in Russia. The restrictions prohibit:

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New EEOC Technical Assistance Addresses Caregiver Discrimination

On March 14, 2022, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released a technical assistance document, the COVID-19 Pandemic and Caregiver Discrimination Under Federal Employment Discrimination Laws, which explains how discrimination against applicants and employees with caregiving responsibilities can violate federal equal employment opportunity (EEO) laws. Although EEO laws do not prohibit discrimination against caregivers specifically, there are some circumstances in which discrimination against caregivers may be unlawful. Because the COVID-19 pandemic has created — and exacerbated — competing job and caregiving demands for individuals as they navigate hybrid work schedules, unexpected closures of school and care facilities, and potential COVID-19 exposure, the EEOC’s updated information may inform employer decisions and actions as they adapt their workplaces to the evolving COVID-19 pandemic.

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