Archives for February 2015

Multi-day Sexual Harassment Training Program For Small Business

Our client was a design and construction company of about 150 employees. After it was threatened with a sexual harassment lawsuit by a former employee, it asked us to devise a training program aimed at reducing risks of future problems. The client’s workforce includes employees of both genders and all ages. Some work solely in the office on computer screens, others work solely in the field at construction sites, and still others travel between the two, interfacing with designers and contractors. The diversity in ages, experience levels and personal outlooks on appropriate workplace behaviors in general and discrimination issues in particular created a challenge to effective communication of the information necessary to achieve the client’s objectives.

Result:  After visiting the work site and interviewing key personnel to gain an understanding of the workforce and the workplace, we devised and implemented a multi-day sexual harassment training program. Employees were grouped based on jobs performed and authority levels. Each attended a training session that covered the same general information but was designed for the particular audience. When each was completed, attendees demonstrated a working knowledge of essential sexual harassment principles.

Legislators Again Propose Banning Noncompetition Agreements in Massachusetts

Despite past failures, including the defeat of bills proposed by former Governor Deval Patrick in 2014, the Massachusetts Legislature is again taking up the idea of banning noncompetition agreements in the Commonwealth. Several proposals were submitted at the start of the new session in 2015. Given proponents’ track record, success this year seems unlikely.

One proposal would apply prospectively to ban the enforcement of new agreements that block employees from working for competitors. The bill would not, however, prevent employers from otherwise restricting the activities of their former employees in important areas. These include the solicitation of employees, independent contractors and, perhaps most importantly, customers. The proposal would also exempt non-competes that derive from business sales or other non-working relationships.

Competing bills were also filed, as were several bills regarding trade secrets.

 

Massachusetts Amends Maternity Leave Act to Cover Both Men and Women

It’s official: men are equal to women when it comes to maternity leave in the Commonwealth. Some 6-plus years after the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) announced that it would treat men as entitled to leave under a state maternity leave law that expressly provided it only to women, the legislature finally acted. It amended the Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act to apply to every employee, not just those who happen to be “female.”

The amendments to Mass. Gen. L. ch. 149, §105D were signed by outgoing Governor Deval Patrick on January 7, just before he left office; they will take effect on April 7, 2015. In addition to making the statute gender neutral, they broaden the purposes for which leave may be taken by replacing the phrase “for the purposes of giving birth or for adopting a child” with  broader language that covers both adoption placement and “placement of a child with an employee pursuant to a court order.” The statute continues to permit up to 8 weeks of leave time. It applies to employers with 6 or more workers, and leave may be with or without pay, in employer discretion.

Employers should review policies for compliance going forward. The law requires covered employers to post notices describing maternity leave rights. It permits employees to pursue legal action with the MCAD for failures to comply with its terms.