The Law @ Work

Thank You to Our Conference Attendees

Skoler Abbott would like to thank all the conference participants for attending our annual 2019 Labor and Employment Law Conference, and to WWLP for covering the event.  Our goal was to deliver an in-depth review of some of the most challenging employment law issues that organizations, human resource personnel and management have faced over the past year and provide cutting-edge insights needed for surviving the challenges on the horizon, including the Massachusetts’ Paid Family Leave law.  Your attendance, participation and insights made this year’s conference a resounding success!  We were honored to present to our largest audience to date with over 100 attendees representing both international and local businesses.

An Important Reminder about Massachusetts PFML

The biggest topic at the conference was Massachusetts PFML compliance.  As discussed during the PFML breakout session, employers are required to provide notice to employees about PFML on or before June 30, 2019.  As we approach the deadline for notification employers need to be ready to answer the following questions:

  • How will you handle employee and employer PFML tax contributions (passing through to the employee, absorbing the cost, or something in-between)?
  • How will you distribute the PFML notice (electronically, in hand, or both)?
  • How will you handle the acknowledgement requirement and those who do not sign?
  • Will you be seeking an exemption for a privately paid plan?
  • Have you planned for increased staffing challenges and reviewed your current time off and attendance policies?

Skoler Abbott attorneys John Gannon and Amelia Holstrom discussed these topics and more in a recent BusinessWest article titled:  Here Are Five Things Employers Should Be Doing — Now.  Click here to read the article. If you have questions regarding PFML, Skoler Abbott attorneys can advise you on the process and help you decide what strategy works best for your business. 

Other Highlights and Takeaways from This Year’s Conference

Common Wage and Hour Mistakes:  Our morning break-away session focused on employers’ eleven most common mistakes ranging from Pay Equity issues to the misclassification of employees.  During this informative presentation attorney Marylou Fabbo  focused on educating employers about common misconceptions in regard to the Fair Labor Standards Act and then proceeded to more nuanced topics such as determining an employee’s actual “regular rate” for overtime purposes.  If any of the following are present in your business it may indicate that it is time to consider an audit:

  •  All employees as “salaried”
  • More than 50% of employees are “exempt”
  • All employees with a college degree are “exempt”
  • All supervisors are “exempt”
  • Employees continue working after clocking out
  • Non-exempt employees have a company tablet, computer, or iPhone or working remotely
  • Non-exempt employees often eat lunch at their desks, taking calls and answering e-mails
  • Employees do not record employees’ actual hours worked

Discrimination, Harassment & Why Employers Get Sued:  Finding yourself in the defendant’s chair is never a good feeling.  While it is nearly impossible to insulate yourself entirely from a lawsuit, this session focused on some of the preventative measures you can put in place to reduce your exposure.  Some of the most beneficial actions you as an employer can take are to train your supervisors and managers on topics such as discrimination, harassment, retaliation and individual liability; have policies in place and enforce them; hold your managers and supervisors accountable and double check their actions before they make them.

How to Conduct Effective, Defensible Internal Investigations:  In our afternoon breakout session attorney Erica Flores trained employers on the fundamental aspects of conducting effective, defensible internal investigations.  Erica offered great insight on values of a reasonable, good faith investigation and the common pitfalls for investigators such as taking sides, promising complete confidentiality, and failing to maintain proper documentation.

Labor and Employment Update:  For those who were behind on their Skoler and Abbott blog reading this session was dedicated to all the news worth printing in Labor and Employment law.  This session focused on brevity and getting you “in the know” regarding topics which may be of concern to your business.  Attorneys Timothy Murphy and Kimberly Klimczuk discussed hot labor topics, including the NLRB’s Advice Memoranda post-Boeing, union dues for non-members, and the new standards for picketing on employer property.  Employment topics included the Massachusetts Equal Pay Act, changes to non-competition agreements, the Pregnant Workers Act, the ever evolving rules surrounding legal marijuana, and part-time work as a reasonable accommodation.

How to Handle Requests for Reasonable Accommodations:  Few areas of employment law generate more questions or confusion than reasonable accommodations.  During this afternoon session experienced panelists discussed strategies and practical tips aimed at helping employers navigate tricky ADA and interactive process issues.

Thanks again to all attendees who joined us for the day.  We hope to see all of you next year for our 2020 Labor and Employment Law Conference (date and location to be decided). 

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