Unfair Labor Practices Employers Should Avoid and Employees Should Watch Out For
Work is a necessity but should also be a pleasant, non-threatening place where individuals can earn a fair wage and be treated with respect. Many claims are filed each year regarding unfair practices by employers. However, many employees are afraid to come forward because they fear retaliation or job loss.
Both sides, employer and employee, should be aware of labor laws that affect you or your business. For employers, this knowledge can protect you legally and can create a happier, more productive team. For employees, your rights are there to make sure you are paid fairly, can take time off for life related issues, and protect you against harassment which can negatively impact your entire life.
Here are four big areas of Massachusetts Labor Law you should acquaint yourself with:
1. Unlawful Discrimination and the Massachusetts Fair Employment Practices Act
Fair Employment Practices Law (FEPL) (M.G.L. c. 151B) prohibits employers with six or more employees from discriminating against current and prospective employees because of the following:
- National Origin
- Criminal record
- Sexual Orientation
- Military Service
FEPL also prohibits sexual harassment. Employer-provided anti-harassment and anti-discrimination training is encouraged. In legal or administrative proceeding, employers can show preventative measures, such as employee training, to minimize or avoid penalties.
2. Leaves of Absence
There are certain times when a leave of absence is necessary and under Massachusetts law, employees are protected for taking certain time off without their position at the company coming being jeopardized. Some of these include:
- Family Medical Leave Act
Under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) if an employee meets certain requirements, he or she can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave within a 12-month period for reasons like birth, adoption, or foster placement of a child; to care for the employee’s own serious health problems; or to care for health problems of the employee’s child, spouse, or parent. They must then be restored to the same or equivalent position when coming back to work. MORE INFORMATION ON FMLA
- Blood Donor Leave
- Disaster Relief Services
- Jury Duty and Witness Appearance Leave
- Maternity Leave
Employers with six or more employees must comply with the Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act (MMLA). Eligible female employees are entitled to up to eight weeks’ unpaid maternity leave for childbirth or adoption. There are certain eligibility requirements to qualify for MMLA, which employees and employers should check carefully.
- Military Leave
- Small Necessities Leave Act (School Activities and Child and Elder Care)
- Voting Leave
3. Employee Compensation
This is an often confusing area of labor law for employees and employers and one of the most unreported for violations. Issues often go unreported because employees may not know what their rights are, or they are afraid of retaliation or job loss if they speak out. Wage and hour violations happen often and can be costly to the employer if legal issues occur and costly to the employee if they do not know or demand to have their rights enforced.
- Minimum Wage
Massachusetts Minimum Fair Wage Law requires that employers pay employees a minimum wage. For most employees the minimum wage in Massachusetts is $9.00 per hour, increasing to $10.00 on January 1, 2016 and to $11.00 on January 1, 2017. Exemptions to the minimum wage law exists only for certain employees, such as tipped employees.
Nonexempt (or typically salaried) employees must be paid one-and-one-half times their regular hourly rate for all hours worked in excess of 40 hours in a given workweek.
- Premium Sundays
Massachusetts Blue Laws require some retailers with more than seven employees to pay premium pay for Sundays and certain holidays. But, employers covered by the statute cannot require employees to work on Sunday or legal holidays, and cannot terminate the employment if the employee cannot or refuses to work on a Sunday.
- Reporting Pay
If an employee is scheduled to work three or more hours and reports to work at the agreed upon time, and then there is no work for the expected hours, the employee must still be paid reporting pay for at least three hours at no less than the basic minimum wage.
It is important to remember that these are rights given to employees in Massachusetts. Employers take on the responsibility to uphold them when they hire their first employee. The law prohibits an employer from penalizing or in any way discriminating against an employee because the employee has made a complaint or made an attempt to understand and enforce their rights.
If you feel your rights are being violated as an employee, or you have questions as an employer and want to make sure your company is compliant, contact us for a complimentary consultation with a Massachusetts employment attorney.
Culik Law is a Massachusetts Law Firm. The posts on Culik Law’s blog are not intended as legal advice.