Equal pay: yes. Pregnancy accommodation, paid leave, anti-bullying, non-compete reform: no.
The end of July saw the end of the formal 2015-2016 state legislative session. What were some noteworthy pieces of employment legislation that did and did not make it to the Governor's desk?
What did pass:
Amendments to the Equal Pay Act -- As I've outlined in a past blog post, the amendments tighten up the already existing state Equal Pay Act. There has been a lot of press around this, particularly around the historic provision that bans employers from asking about a job applicant's prior salary before an offer of employment with compensation has been made and negotiated. That provision alone makes this law go far beyond its applications toward women; employers need to change their hiring processes across the board to make sure they are not asking either women or men about past salaries before making employment offers that include compensation details. Contact me if I can help walk you through what to do in your personal situation.
What didn't make it through this time around:
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Bill -- The bill attempted to closed a gap in current law so that pregnant women could request a reasonable and temporary accommodation -- such as a modified work schedule, extra bathroom break or sitting stool -- and employers would have had to comply unless doing so posed an undue hardship. As of June 2016, 18 states, D.C. and four cities had already passed similar laws, and there is also a similar bill pending before Congress. I have no doubt advocates will hit the ground running again with this Massachusetts bill come next session. Senate President Rosenberg is reported to be for it.
Paid Family and Medical Leave -- At the very last minute, the state Senate passed a paid family and medical leave bill. While the House failed to pass their own version, the bills set up the groundwork to move paid leave legislation next session. The Senate's bill set up a state-administered benefit system to allow for the payment of some benefits for employees who must take time off from work for serious health issues or to care for a new child or sick family member. The family leave benefit would have run for up to 16 weeks; the medical leave benefit would have run for up to 26 weeks. The level of benefits was to be capped at $1,000 a week, an amount that would increase with inflation. Varying eligibility requirements were in place, including, similar to the FMLA, that individuals would have to be at a job for 1,250 hours before the benefit kicks in.
The Healthy Workplace Bill -- The bill tried to give targets of severe workplace bullying a right to seek damages for the targeted, malicious, health-endangering mistreatment of a worker by a supervisor or co-worker. If passed, employers would have been liable for enabling and maintaining a toxic work environment that subjected employees to this type of health-harming, abusive conduct. Advocates suggest they will be back at it when the next legislative session comes around in January 2017.
Non-compete reform -- While this year the House and Senate did each pass their own versions of non-compete reform, they ultimately did not pass a compromise bill by the end of the session. So, once again, non-compete reform in Massachusetts awaits another day.
Don't hesitate to contact me if I can help with any of these employment law issues