The Law @ Work

Changes Coming to Massachusetts and Connecticut on January 1, 2019

by Amelia J. Holstrom

2018 was a busy year in employment law.  Massachusetts saw sweeping changes in a number of areas, including non-compete reform and the passage of paid family and medical leave.  Connecticut also saw employment law changes, including the passage of the Pay Equity Act.  Many of these changes have left employers reeling, and, as 2018 draws to a close, employers aren’t getting a break.  Increases to Massachusetts’ minimum wage and Connecticut’s Pay Equity Act are effective January 1, 2019, and employers need to make sure that they are complying with the changes.

Increases to MA Minimum Wage

Raises are in order for minimum wage workers in Massachusetts on January 1, 2019.  The minimum wage has been $11.00 per hour since January 1, 2017 but will increase to $12.00 per hour on January 1, 2019.  And, as if that wasn’t enough, as part of the “Grand Bargain Bill,” the minimum wage will increase $0.75 per hour every year on January 1 until it hits $15.00 per hour on January 1, 2023. The minimum wage for tipped workers increases to $4.35 per hour on January 1, 2019 and will increase each year until it reaches $6.75 per hour on January 1, 2023.  With significant increases over a five year period, employers need to plan ahead and budget for these changes.

Pay Equity Act is Coming to Connecticut

On May 22, 2018, Governor Dannel Malloy signed the Pay Equity Act into law in Connecticut.  The law, which becomes effective January 1, 2019, bars employers from: 1) prohibiting an employee from disclosing or discussing the amount of his/her wages; 2) prohibiting an employee from disclosing or discussing the wages of another employee if the wages of that other employee were voluntarily disclosed; 3) prohibiting an employee from asking about the wages of another employee; 4) requiring an employee to sign a waiver or other document that denies the employee’s right to disclose or discuss his/her wages, the wages of another employee that have been voluntarily disclosed, or ask about the wages of another employee; and 5) inquiring about, directly or indirectly, a prospective employee’s wage and salary history, unless the prospective employee has voluntarily disclosed such information.  The law also prohibits employers from discharging, disciplining, discriminating or retaliating against, or otherwise penalizing an employee who exercises their rights under the law to ask about, discuss, and/or disclose his/her wages or wages of another employee.  There is a silver lining for employers – the law specifically states that it does not require an employer, or an employee for that matter, to disclose the amount of wages paid to any employee.  Accordingly, although an employee can ask about wages of a coworker, there’s no requirement that the employee actually receive the requested information in response to such an inquiry.

The changes mean that Connecticut employers need to make changes to their employment applications and hiring processes to eliminate any inquiries seeking the employee’s wage or salary history and update their policies related to an employee’s ability to discuss, disclose, and inquire about wages if necessary.

Bottom Line

2019 is rolling in with a bang.  And, with portions of paid family and medical leave going into effect in Massachusetts in July 2019, chances are that 2019 will be another busy year in employment law.

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