Tag Archives: policies

Massachusetts: New Paid Sick Leave Law

(Post written by attorneys Amanda Marie Baer and Bob Kilroy of Mirick O’Connell)

On November 4, 2014, Massachusetts voters approved a ballot question enacting M.G.L. c. 149, § 148C, which entitles Massachusetts employees to earn and use sick time.  Massachusetts is now the third state in the nation to guarantee paid sick days for certain workers.Unknown

The law provides that employees who work for public or private employers having eleven or more employees can earn and use up to 40 hours of paid sick time per calendar year.  The sick time must be compensated at the same hourly rate paid to the employee when the sick time is used.  Employees who work for employers with less than eleven employees can earn and use up to 40 hours of unpaid sick time per calendar year.

Under the law, employees earn one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked.  Employees begin accruing sick hours on either (a) the date of hire; or (b) July 1, 2015, whichever is later.

Employees may begin to use earned sick time on the 90th day after hire.  After the 90 day period, employees may use earned sick time as it accrues.  Employees can only use earned sick time and miss work in order to: 

  1. Care for a physical or mental illness, injury, or medical condition affecting the employee or the employee’s child, spouse, parent, or parent of a spouse;
  2. Attend routine medical appointments of the employee or the employee’s child, spouse, parent, or parent of a spouse; or
  3. Address the effects of domestic violence on the employee or the employee’s dependent child.

In certain circumstances, employers may require employees to provide certification of the need for sick time.

If an employee does not use all of their sick time in a calendar year, the employee may carry over up to 40 hours of unused sick time to the next calendar year.  Employees who carry over earned sick time, however, may only use up to 40 hours of sick time in a calendar year.  Employers are not required to pay an employee for unused sick time at the end of the employee’s employment.

It is unlawful for any employer to interfere with, restrain, or deny the exercise of, or the attempt to exercise, any right provided under the new law.  For example, employers may not use the taking of earned sick time as a negative factor in any employment action such as an evaluation, promotion, disciplinary action or termination, or otherwise subject an employee to discipline for use of earned sick time under the law.

In light of this change in the law, employers are advised to review and update, as necessary, their sick time, vacation and/or paid time off policies.

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Fall Means Final End of Year Check-Up On Your Business

images(Posted by Rick Dacri on August 28, 2013)

The summer is nearly over and now it’s time to look forward to the fall. I wanted to check in with you and suggest a check-up on your operation. The economy continues to heat up and there’s a lot happening, so I wanted to take a moment to provide you a brief list of important items you should be focusing on to help you make managing your business a bit easier:

1. Turnover is Increasing: With an improving market, there is strong evidence that employees are feeling more confident and many, particularly coveted star performers, are beginning to look to make job changes. That’s not good for you.

Advice: Make sure your managers and supervisors are focused on employee retention. Implement a progressive retention program and initiate an annual employee satisfaction survey to take a pulse of your organization.

2. ACA Deadlines: Deadlines for the Affordable Care Act are upon us.  


My Advice: Make sure your plan meets all the new requirements and plan to provide employee education programs. You may also want to change your new enrollments dates and your benefit eligibility requirements. Update your classifications for full-time and part-time employees and evaluate whether it makes sense to restructure your staffing to address “pay or play” thresholds.

3. Evaluate Your Hiring: As the economy expands, you may find the need to add staff. With an improving economy, finding good people is proving more difficult.

My Advice: Continue reading

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Policies Impact Lifestyle and Life

 images(This article, written by Rick Dacri, was originally published in the York County Coast Star)

I’ve always found in corporate life that the decisions you make, the policies you develop, rarely have consequences so severe that they shake you to your core. Until now.

The recent decisions of two organizations force us to rethink the policies we create, and what we demand of our workers. One requires us to reevaluate how we manage, the other what it means to be human.

Yahoo’s CEO either ignited a firestorm or opened a debate on the value of telecommuting. Yahoo informed all their remote workers that they would no longer be allowed to work out of their homes and by June they had to return to their desks at Yahoo’s offices. Those who refuse will be asked to resign.

What makes the decision so surprising for some is that Yahoo is led by one of the few female CEOs running a Fortune 500 company and one who just had a baby. Surely she would be more sensitive to the issues facing workingwomen today.  But before we declare that the glass ceiling is clearly now impenetrable and predict that this is the beginning of the end for family friendly employment policies, think again.

Allowing employees to work from home still makes good business sense for many organizations. Technology has made it possible for many to work anywhere without the need to take up valuable corporate real estate. While Yahoo believes their remote workers will be more productive in their company offices, allowing greater collaboration and sharing of ideas, independent studies have shown that home based workers work longer hours per week and are much more productive on average than regular workers.

 Telecommuting remains a powerful recruitment and retention tool. Continue reading

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Discrimination and Retaliation Claims Set a Record in 2010

(This post was writen by Attorney Glenn Israel  of the law firm Bernstein Shur

 The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) recently reported that it received a record number of claims from employees in 2010 – nearly 100,000 new claims. Retaliation claims are the most frequently filed, but disability discrimination claims are on the rise, increasing by nearly 20 percent in 2010, and sex discrimination and religious discrimination cases continue to increase as well. Not surprisingly, the EEOC reports that the cost to employers of resolving these claims also continues to increase. We have seen a similar trend here in Maine. More of our clients are being sued for discrimination and retaliation, and the cost to resolve these claims has steadily increased. We also are seeing a marked increase in claims under the Maine Whistleblower’s Protection Act.

 There are a number of reasons for this disturbing trend. The down economy has caused increased layoffs and decreased job security which has resulted in a loss of employee morale, decreased employee loyalty, and increased employee desperation. These factors have driven more employees to commence litigation over real or perceived injustices in the workplace. Experts predict that this trend is likely to continue for several years.

 Now, more than ever, it is important for employers to do everything they can to avoid becoming defendants in discrimination or retaliation suits. There are some basic steps that you can take that do not cost very much and greatly reduce the likelihood that you will find yourself on the receiving end of a law suit. So, what can you do?

 Develop Policies – Every employer should have an anti-discrimination and harassment policy that addresses all forms of discrimination and harassment. It also is advisable to have policies that affirmatively require managers to consider and document objective criteria when making decisions regarding hiring, promotions, discipline, and discharge.

 Support and Follow Policies – Policies are only useful when they are fully supported by senior management and are consistently followed. Middle managers and rank and file employees all should understand that senior management is committed to following the established policies.

 Provide Training – Policies are not always self-explanatory Managers and employees must be educated regarding their roles and responsibilities in following and enforcing policies. This is the area where most employers fail. Once a policy has been developed and is fully understood by senior management, it is vitally important to make sure that all middle managers and employees share that understanding.

 Implement an Effective Complaint Resolution Process – Employees need to know how to bring problems to the attention of management and they need to be encouraged to do so. Managers need to know how to respond to employee complaints and concerns. To accomplish these goals, you need to implement a complaint resolution process and provide training to all managers and employees regarding how the process works.

 Maintain Complete Documentation – In the event that you are sued for employment discrimination, your best defense is a well maintained personnel file. It is important for employers to establish policies and procedures for documenting job performance and discipline issues, and to train all management personnel to follow these policies and procedures.  This is another area where many employers fail to protect themselves, either by not establishing policies and procedures in the first place or by not consistently following them. 

 It is clear that 2011 will be another challenging year for the economy and for employers. Employers may be tempted to avoid spending the time and money necessary to develop new policies or train managers and employees. However, a modest investment in anti-discrimination policies and training now can reduce the risk of costly claims later.

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Need Social Media Policy?

Employees are stealing more time taking cigarette breaks than they are visiting Facebook. That’s the finding of a Ball State University study. Yet, many employers are more alarmed that their employees are spending company time on social networking sites, zapping away company productivity. To combat this, companies are writing policies that prevent all usage while others are putting up firewalls to block access.

Before heading down a similar path, employers should step back and evaluate the situation carefully. Survey after survey indicates that employees are in fact accessing Twitter, Facebook and other sites during company time, but their time away from work is limited.

Employers should legitimately be concerned about productivity loss as well as the potential for damaged reputations due to inappropriate postings by their employees. After all you want to control what employees may be saying and posting about your company, staff and customers.

Develop policies that clearly spell out how employees can utilize social networking sites, on and off the clock. Discuss what is expected and what is inappropriate. Educate your entire workforce. Employees need to know the rules governing their activity. But be careful about banning all usage. It is likely that it would not work and frankly, you may lose the legitimate benefits that come from social networking.

Social networking is here to stay. Have open discussions about it with your employees. Use it to your benefit.

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Solving Workplace Issues: Booze At Work

Drugs and alcohol are all too common. Going out after work for a “couple” or having a drink or two at lunch is a slippery slope that usually leads to big workplace problems. So what should you do when you think that one of your employees—maybe one of your better employees, may have been drinking, particularly when the only “evidence” that you have is the smell of alcohol on his breath?

The problem of alcohol and substance abuse in the workplace is prevalent today. According to U.S. Department of Labor, 71% of all illegal drug users are employed. This translates into a problem that nearly every employer must address, and the cost associated with this is staggering. Studies show that those who abuse drugs or alcohol are less likely to come to work, have lower productivity, increased errors, use their medical benefits at a higher level than other employees, and file more workers’ compensation claims.

So what can you do? How should you address this workplace problem? If substance abuse is contributing to an employee’s deteriorating performance, ignoring the situation won’t help. It will likely only get worse and have costly—and possibly disastrous—consequences for everyone unless some action is taken.

Clinical diagnosis of an alcohol or other drug problem is not the job of a manager and should never be done. However, evaluating work performance is. A key part of every manager’s job is to remain alert to changes in an employee’s performance and to work with employees who are having problems so that it improves.

When an employee’s performance begins to deteriorate, for whatever reason, the manager has the right and responsibility to intervene and intervene fast. You do not need to be an expert on alcohol or other drugs to intervene appropriately if substance abuse is suspected since the intervention should always be focused only on the performance problem.

From an organizational strategy, you have many options to combat this problem. 1. Establish and enforce policies prohibiting alcohol and drugs in the workplace. 2. Train all managers in both understanding the signs of substance abuse and in addressing performance based issues. 3. Employees should understand that the organization will not tolerate alcohol or drugs in the workplace, but will provide help for those who truly want and need it. 4. And finally, the use of an employee assistance program to support the organization and problem employees can also prove invaluable in addressing these crises.

The problem of drugs and alcohol in the workplace is not going to go away any time soon. Managers must ensure that your workforce is both productive and safe.

Excerpted from my book, Uncomplicating Management; scheduled for publication on November 1, 2009.

To get a free download of Uncomplicating Management, click http://www.dacri.com/book_uncomplicating_management.htm

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