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Attorneys in Mirick O'Connell's Labor, Employment and Employee Benefits Group represent private and public employers in all facets of labor and employment law, including employment litigation before federal and state courts and administrative agencies, grievance arbitration, collective bargaining, human resource-related advice and training, and employee benefits.  We represent clients in industries ranging from health care to banking and finance; from education to life sciences; from high technology to manufacturing; and from construction to insurance.  In addition, we have extensive experience representing government entities and municipalities.
Employers Take Notice:  New OSHA Recording and Reporting Occupational Injuries and Illnesses Regulations Taking Effect on August 10, 2016 and January 1, 2017, Respectively. 

The United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently issued a final rule revising its so-called Recordkeeping and Reporting Occupational Injuries and Illnesses regulation.  Although most of the requirements of OSHA's final rule will take effect on January 1, 2017, the following key provisions took effect on August 10, 2016:  
  1. employers must notify their employees of their right to report illnesses and injuries free from retaliation;
     
  2. employer illness and injury reporting procedures must be reasonable and not have the effect of deterring or discouraging employees from reporting such illnesses or injuries; and
     
  3. consistent with language already contained in the Occupational Safety and Health Act (the "OSH Act"), employers are prohibited from retaliating or discriminating against employees who report workplace illnesses or injuries.     
Employers may satisfy their notice obligation by posting the OSHA Poster, which can be accessed at https://www.osha.gov/Publications/osha3165-8514.pdf
 
These changes coincidentally take effect just eight days after the effective date for OSHA's increased maximum penalties for safety violations. 
(OSHA, however, has decided to delay enforcement of the anti-retaliation provisions until November 1, 2016 to allow OSHA to "provide outreach to the regulated community" so that employers can ensure they are in compliance with the new provisions when enforcement begins on November 1, 2016.)   On August 2, 2016, the new maximum penalties for the following violations took effect:
 
Types of Violation
Previous Maximum Penalty
New Maximum Penalty
Serious and
Other-Than-Serious Posting Requirements
$7,000 per violation
$12,471 per violation
Failure to Abate
$7,000 per day beyond the abatement date
$12,471 per day beyond the abatement date
Willful or Repeated
$70,000 per violation
$124,709 per violation
 
Any citations issued by OSHA on or after August 2, 2016, will be subject to the new penalties if the related violations occurred after November 2, 2015.
 
In light of the final rule's employee notice and anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation provisions, and the significant increases to the maximum penalties issued by OSHA for the above-noted safety violations, employers are well advised to review their existing handbooks and policies and revise them, if necessary.
 
In addition, new recordkeeping and reporting requirements will take effect on January 1, 2017.  Accordingly, employers should begin preparing to comply with these recordkeeping and reporting requirements.  For more information about OSHA's final rule revising the Recordkeeping and Reporting Occupational Injuries and Illnesses regulation, please click here.  

By  Bob Kilroy

It is not uncommon for human resources professionals to receive a verbal resignation from an employee or to be informed by a manager that an employee has stated that he or she is resigning their employment.  In many instances, these verbal resignations occur in the heat of the moment, such as in the midst of a performance-based counseling or while facing the prospect of discipline for misconduct.  The knee-jerk reaction of many managers and HR personnel is to inform the employee that they require the employee to submit his or her resignation in writing.  Although it is certainly legally permissible to request a resignation in writing, it is not always advisable to do so.  >> READ FULL ARTICLE


Despite Legislative Inaction, it May Be Time to Test the Fitness of Your Non-Competes

When the clock struck midnight on August 1 st, it brought the Massachusetts legislative session to a close.  It also brought to a close the latest efforts by the Great and General Court to change the landscape regarding non-compete law.  Although the proposed legislation failed due to the inability of the two houses of the legislature to agree on critical provisions, the closeness of the loss may portend that change is on the way.  In the meantime, life moves on - for employers who have employees currently signed to non-competes; and for employers who may want to have employees sign them between now and when (if?) the law does actually change.   >> READ FULL ARTICLE

On August 1, 2016, Governor Charlie Baker signed into law the Act to Establish Pay Equity (the "Pay Equity Act"), which will go into effect on January 1, 2018 for all Massachusetts employers.  The Pay Equity Act, which amends and strengthens Massachusetts' existing prohibition on discrimination in wages based on gender, is being called the most robust equal pay law in the country.  >> READ FULL ARTICLE
Mirick O'Connell is a full-service law firm with offices in Worcester, Westborough and Boston, Massachusetts.  The Firm's principal practice groups include Business; Creditors' Rights, Bankruptcy and Reorganization; Elder Law; Family Law and Divorce; Intellectual Property; Labor, Employment and Employee Benefits; Land Use and Environmental Law; Litigation; Personal Injury; Public and Municipal Law; and Trusts and Estates.
This client alert is intended to inform you of developments in the law and to provide information of general interest.  It is not intended to constitute legal advice regarding a client's specific legal issues and should not be relied upon as such.  This client alert may be considered advertising under the rules of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.