Archives for March 2009

COBRA Law Benefits Expanded

It’s commonly known as the “Stimulus Bill,” and is officially called the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. This is the huge federal bill passed in February at the urging of President Barack Obama. While the overall idea was to stimulate the American economy, included in the bill’s details are unexpected benefits like the one that laid off employees will enjoy under COBRA. As most know, this federal law guarantees continued health care coverage for workers who lose their jobs, regardless of the reason. Under the Stimulus Bill, employers now must cover 65% of the COBRA premium for employees fired – or laid off, if that term is preferred, the distinction being meaningless in this context – between September 1, 2008 and December 31, 2009. This percentage must be paid for up to nine months, but applies only to periods of time between [Read more…]

Massachusetts Attacks Independent Contractors

In 2004, Massachusetts changed its independent contractor law in a rather radical way. The amendment essentially banned the use of independent contractors in the Commonwealth, regardless whether workers and employers agreed that the arrangement made good business sense. The new law so narrowly defined who could and couldn’t be an independent contractor that most observers figured it represented a case of legislative over-drafting. How, after all, could the state have intended such a radical result when important segments of the business community had for so many years operated openly and productively under the independent contractor model?

Five years later, the anti-contractor law not only is unchanged but is being vigorously enforced under the leadership of Governor Deval Patrick. In 2008, he formed a joint task force to target violators of the independent contractor statute, calling them purveyors of an “underground economy” that underpays employees, reduces state tax revenues, and undermines safety laws. The task force’s mission statement takes an aggressive stand against what’s termed improper employee classification, which the Governor believes affects one in every seven Massachusetts workers. In its one year of existence, the task force has already launched hundreds of coordinated investigations and leveled numerous fines against Massachusetts employers. An anonymous tip line makes starting an [Read more…]