Enjoy the holiday! A few updates below:

New Poster for MA Employers

Reflecting the increase in the minimum wage and the myriad of regulations on wages in the Bay State, a very busy poster is ready and waiting to go up at your workplace.

Pay Equity in Massachusetts --It's Coming and You Can Safeguard Your Workplace by Acting Now

Way back in 2016 we told you about a groundbreaking bill that was signed into law by Governor Baker--the Massachusetts Pay Equity Act. When this law goes into effect on July 1, 2018, it will be one of the most expansive equal pay laws in the country.

Why are we reminding you about a change that's still more than a year away? Two reasons:

  1. Your actions now can defend against future claims.
  2. Equal pay laws have been in place for years, but Massachusetts' new law is the first of its kind.

Proactively Defend Against Future Claims

Your actions now can protect the company for the next three years.

The new law provides a "self-evaluation" defense for employers. Under the Act, an employer will have an affirmative defense to liability for an equal pay violation where the employer, within the three years prior to the commencement of a wage discrimination claim, has:

  1. Completed a good faith self-evaluation that is "reasonable in detail and scope in light of the size of the employer;" and,
  2. Made "reasonable progress" toward eliminating pay differences based on gender.

Foley & Foley PC can assist you in conducting an initial Pay Equity Audit to protect your company against future claims. By conducting the audit annually, on a go-forward basis, you can create a rolling affirmative defense against future claims.

Recommended Next Steps

It is likely that, once the law goes into effect, the Attorney General's Office will promptly begin investigating claims under the new law. We recommend employers initiate the following steps soon, to ensure compliance before the law takes effect:

  1. Conduct a self-evaluation of pay practices and make reasonable progress toward eliminating pay differentials uncovered by the evaluation. Perform an initial audit in 2017 and repeat the process annually.
  2. Perform an audit of your recruiting processes, documents, and systems. Recruiters, hiring managers, and compensation professionals may need to be trained on the new law. Paper or electronic forms may need to be updated to reflect the limitations placed on salary history inquires.
  3. Review and update existing policies or employee handbooks to ensure compliance with the law. Existing language restricting an employee's discussions of pay-related information should be removed.
  4. Consider implementing, or updating, your internal complaint processes to address pay equity issues.

Proposed New Tax Assessment on Business. Thanks Charlie!

If you drive a car, I'll tax the street,
If you try to sit, I'll tax your seat.
If you get too cold I'll tax the heat,
If you take a walk, I'll tax your feet...

George Harrison, The Beatles

Massachusetts Governor Baker has included a new tax assessment on businesses in his 2018 proposed budget and it is a whopper. The proposed tax assessment would impact businesses with 10 or more employees if the employer does not contribute at least $4,950.00 toward each full time employee's health care and have an 80% participation in its group health plan. This health related tax assessment would require a payment of $2,000.00 per full time equivalent employee. Full time employees are defined as those who work 35 hours or more per week. The proposal revives the "fair share" that was eliminated under the Affordable Care Act (ACA)-with a hefty increase. The goal is to raise $300 million to offset the costs of the projected 1.93 million enrolled in MassHealth for 2017. Baker is also proposing various caps paid to providers in an attempt to limit costs and close the gap on discordant charges for the same services.

The short version of how this happened: In 2006, before the ACA, Massachusetts employers with 11 or more employees were required to offer healthcare coverage to full-time workers or pay a fee of $295 per worker. If an employer offered health insurance, employees were ineligible for MassHealth. To comply with the ACA, the employer fee and the restriction in choosing MassHealth were eliminated. Moreover, the ACA federal mandate to fine employers with over 50 employees who did not offer insurance has never gone into effect. In Massachusetts that meant more people enrolling in MassHealth and less money to fund it. Can you say quagmire?

The attempt to shift this enormous burden onto the backs of business has understandable resistance. The skyrocketing cost of insurance is at the heart of the problem and pouring more money on the problem does not sit well. The interplay between the ACA and MassHealth has problems as well-- Baker has requested a waiver from ACA provisions that conflict with or add unnecessary costs to the state. Finer points of Baker's 2018 assessment must be addressed. For instance, what if employees reject employer offered coverage (perhaps in favor of coverage from a spouse) and participation drops below 80%? Under the current provision, the employer will still be required to pay the assessment.

The legislature needs to carefully examine this proposal and its massive potential impact on business. We urge you to contact your representatives in the Senate and House. We will monitor the progress of this proposed tax assessment and continue to update our clients on any new developments.

We can help! 508-548-4888 or