In Camara v. Attorney General, the state’s highest court determined that an employer could not make wage deductions when the employer had unilateral power to determine the employee’s negligence and the amount of the damages. Michael Camara is Vice President of ABC Disposal, a garbage company based in New Bedford, and the employer in question.
In this case, truck drivers for ABC Disposal Service were given a choice after an accident. They could accept disciplinary action for causing the accident, or they could pay the company for the damages incurred. Payment was made through weekly payroll deductions with the employee’s written consent. The deductions were small enough so the employee still earned at least the minimum wage each week.
The Massachusetts Supreme Court determined that these deductions were not allowed because the company determined who was at fault for the accident and set a dollar amount on the damages. A company safety office would investigate the accident and report his findings. The supervisory safety manager would then (more…)
A new law strengthens the Massachusetts personnel file even more. Employers are required to notify workers within 10 days when any addition to their personnel record is made, if that addition could negatively impact the employee’s employment status, pay, salary increase, prospects for promotion, transfer or training, or if the information could result in disciplinary action.
In addition, the Massachusetts employee has the right to inspect his or her personnel file after receiving such notification. The law signed by Governor Deval Patrick was made retroactive to August 1, 2010. Although the new law limits the employee’s inspection of his or her personnel file to twice per calendar year, that limit excludes inspections triggered by notification that new negative material has been added. Employers must make the personnel file available to an employee within 5 business days after a written request by the employee.
The new law, called Chapter 240 of the Acts of 2010, section 148, raises more questions than it answers, according to attorneys with Ogletree Deakins.
For example, the law is not precise about what constitutes a “personnel record.” This raises a concern that even an informal email or casual note from one manager to another, which is not added to the official personnel file, could be considered (more…)
Many states are imposing stricter penalties for employers who illegally avoid paying unemployment insurance and workers’ comp by misclassifying workers as independent contractors.
In Somers v. Converged Access, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the independent contractor law is a strict liability statute. This means that the employer’s intent in misclassifying a worker is irrelevant. Therefore, the worker was entitled to compensation for wages, overtime and benefits that he would have received, if he had been correctly classified as an employee. In addition, the employee was permitted to keep the $65 per hour that the company paid him as an independent contractor – an amount far in excess of an employee’s wage in the same job.
The Massachusetts company was required to pay the employee for benefits including vacation and holiday pay. In addition, the company was ordered to pay the employee overtime at a rate of $97.50 per hour – 1.5 times the worker’s $65-per-hour wage.
This put Massachusetts in the rank of second, tied with California, for the highest state minimum wage. Washington comes in first with a state minimum wage rate of $8.07 per hour.
In all, fourteen states increased the minimum wage with the new year.
This new state minimum wage does not apply to all employees. As long as the worker averages $5.37 per hour in tips, employees who earn tips can be paid as little as $2.63 per hour. Employees in the agricultural industry can receive as little as $1.60 per hour.
The Massachusetts state minimum wage law includes some other exceptions. Employers in this state are not required to pay a premium for weekend, holiday or night time work. The “Blue Laws” are an exception, which require that some retailers pay a premium rate to employees who work on holidays and Sundays.
A premium rate of pay, or overtime, is normally paid to any worker who puts in more than 40 hours during one week. This rate is paid at 1.5 times the normal hourly rate. Several types of employees, however, are excluded from overtime pay by the state minimum wage law. These employees include fishermen, golf caddies, newsboys, apprentices, outside salespersons, and switchboard operators for the phone company, among others.
Seasonal businesses that operate fewer than 120 days per year are also exempt from paying overtime.
Massachusetts excludes a number of industries from paying overtime, too. Hotel, restaurant, hospital, gas station, nursing home and amusement park workers do not qualify for overtime pay. Non-profit summer camp employees and workers are non-profit schools and colleges are exempt from overtime pay.
Many changes will occur in 2008 regarding minimum wage laws. The changes in both federal and state laws will require all Massachusetts companies to update their labor law posters. Companies that need updated information can check out the labor law website at www.laborlawcenter.com.
January 1, 2008 saw an increase in state minimum wage for fourteen states, including Montana, Arizona, Iowa and Delaware and ten others. These raises, however, are just the first of many increases slated for 2008.
The first of these increases will occur on July 1, 2008. Three states will enjoy a substantial raise at this time. Kentucky will add 70 cents to its minimum resulting in a new rate of $6.55. West Virginia will also see a 70 cent bump, from $6.55 to $7.25 per hour. Employees in Pennsylvania, however, will see the biggest boost, a 90 cent jump from $6.25 to $7.15
Five other states will enact less dramatic increases to their minimum wage rates. For example, both Michigan’s and Illinois’s rates will receive a 25 cent bump. The minimum wage in Illinois will increase from $7.50 to $7.75. Michigan’s minimum will be raised from $7.15 to $7.40 per hour.
The July 24, 2008 increase in the federal minimum wage is a result of the Fair Minimum Act of 2007, which President George W. Bush signed into law on May 24, 2006. The Act set up a three step system of increases. The July 24, 2008 bump will be the second step of that system.
Several states, including Texas, Maryland and Oklahoma, tie their state minimum wage increases to when federal minimum wage goes up. When the federal minimum wage goes up on July 24, 2008, the minimum wages in these states will go up, too. Ohio’s minimum wage will increase to $6.55 per hour for workers of companies with gross annual revenue of less than $255,000.
In addition to the states mentioned above, the District of Columbia also ties its minimum wage to the federal minimum. In D. C., however, the law requires the minimum wage rate to be at least $1.00 more per hour than the federal rate. On July 24, 2008, D.C.’s minimum wage will increase to $7.55 per hour.
The state minimum wage in Massachusetts will increase by 50 cents from $7.50 to $8.00 on January 1, 2008. This change puts the state’s minimum wage on a par with California, tied at second highest in the nation, after the Washington state minimum wage.
Under significant exceptions to the minimum wage, however, tipped employees can be paid just 2.63 per hour, as long as they earn an average of $5.37 per hour in tips over the shift. Workers in the agricultural industry can be paid just $1.60 per hour.
The Massachusetts minimum wage statue does not require employers to pay a premium for weekends, holidays or night work. However, the state Blue Laws do require that some retailers pay a premium for Sundays and holidays.
Massachusetts is one of a handful of states that requires employers to compensate employees for any accrued vacation time upon termination. However, the state does not mandate any paid sick days or severance pay.
Most workers are entitled to overtime at 1.5 times the usual rate of pay after 40 hours in one week under Massachusetts minimum wage law. However, a number of employees are excluded from the state’s overtime provision, including:
Residential Janitors who are furnished with living quarters
Handicapped person under special license
Switchboard Operator for the Phone Company
Truck Driver or Helper covered by ICC
The state also exempts employees of a seasonal business from overtime payments, provided that business operates less than 120 days per year.
Employees in several industries are also exempt from the state overtime provisions, such as those who work in hotels, restaurants, hospitals, gas stations, nursing homes, and amusement parks. Employees in non-profit schools or colleges are also exempt from overtime, as are workers at non-profit summer camps.
Some of the workers named above may be entitled to overtime under federal regulations.
When labor laws change, employers are required to post the updated information with new labor law posters. In 2008, several changes will occur so that employers will need to update their information. Complete listings are available at www.laborlawcenter.com.
Most of the states in the country have enacted state minimum wage laws. Over a dozen of these states will introduce increases in these minimums on January 1, 2008.
In Arizona, Florida and Montana, the minimum will see a small raise of just a few cents per hour. Arizona’s minimum will go from $6.75 to $6.90. Florida will add 14 cents to its current rate of $6.65 to get $6.79. Only nine cents will be added to Montana’s minimum wage to go from $6.15 to $6.26 per hour.
Conversely, Iowa will add over a dollar to raise their minimum from $6.20 to $7.25 per hour. New Mexico, too will add more than a $1 per hour, from $5.15 to $6.50 per hour.
Later in the year several more states will up their minimum wages, too. July 1, 2008, Kentucky will go up almost a dollar per hour from $5.58 to $6.55. Ninety cents will be added to the minimum wage in Pennsylvania of $6.25 to reach $7.15 per hour.
The federal minimum wage will go into effect on July 24, 2008 at $6.55 per hour. Many states have legislation that connects their minimum wages to the federal minimum, including Virginia, Indiana and Nebraska. On July 24, 2008, then, these states will increase their minimum wages, too. Washington D. C. has tied its minimum to the federal at exactly one dollar more, so when the new federal minimum debuts on July 24, D.C.’s minimum will go up to $7.55 per hour.
If, as an employer, the changes are not clear, or more information is needed regarding how and what to update, businesses can get information on all 50 states online at www.laborlawcenter.com.