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Senate President Calls for 'Bold Steps'

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Mar 15, 2019 11:20:37 AM

 

Senate President Karen E. Spilka today called for Massachusetts to take “bold steps” to address issues such as transportation, education, health-care costs and economic development in the face of relentless changes to the state economy.

SP.Spilka“The common thread of all the challenges we face is unprecedented change. The success of our Commonwealth will ultimately be measured by how well we navigate and harness the potential of this change,” Spilka told more than 300 business leaders at the AIM Executive Forum on Waltham.

She said Massachusetts finds itself in a unique political moment that will determine the future course of its economy.

“It would be a mistake to waste this moment on incremental changes and small ideas,” she said. “Now is the time to be bold. That said, we have to find a way to reach consensus on our bold ideas.”

Spilka said state leaders must replicate the collaborative model of last year’s “grand bargain,” which brought together employers, advocacy groups and legislators to hammer out a compromise on paid family leave and the minimum wage. She thanked the business community for engaging in those conversations and invited employers to continue to participate in major policy debates.

The Senate President cited the growth of the Metrowest district she represents as an example of the challenges and opportunities facing the Massachusetts economy. Technology and innovation have transformed Metrowest from a Boston bedroom region to the home of major employers like Staples, TJX and Boston Scientific, but that growth has stressed the transportation infrastructure and priced some workers out of the housing market.

She acknowledged that resolving these issues carries a large price tag.

“I firmly believe we must create an economic development and tax framework for the 21st century where innovative technology-driven businesses can develop and thrive here but where we also capture new revenue to continue providing essential services, and fund our vision for our future,” she told the audience.

“So far, we have been addressing these new industries on a piecemeal basis, which only serves to breed confusion for business, government, and consumers. We must work together to find a balance that benefits us all, especially as we will be relying on these industries to continue to fuel our economic success.”

Spilka said the Senate will address health-care costs by looking at the price of prescription drugs and the cost transparency of the medical system. She praised the initiative led by AIM and the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation to reduce unnecessary use of emergency rooms.

Topics: Massachusetts Legislature, AIM Executive Forum, Senate President Karen Spilka

Government Proposes to Raise Overtime Threshold

Posted by Tom Jones on Mar 11, 2019 8:00:00 AM

The long-running saga of federal rules governing overtime pay took another twist last week when the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced that it will increase the overtime-wage threshold to $35,308 per year from the current $23,660 per year.

The change would mean that workers who make less than $35,000 a year would be considered non-exempt and eligible for overtime pay no matter what their current classification. So, employers with exempt employees earning between $23,660 and $35,308 would need to reclassify them as non-exempt and pay them overtime if warranted or pay them at least $35,308 per year and provide them with sufficient duties to justify classifying them as exempt.

There are no proposed changes in the federal regulations to the white-collar duties test.

If adopted, the higher wage level will significantly increase the number of workers eligible for overtime pay. It does not appear as though the proposal will include any specific duty adjustments, but it remains possible. As part of the rule-making process, the DOL sent the proposal to the White House Office of Management and Budget in mid-January.

There is no clear timetable for when the draft regulation will be released or when it will take effect. Moreover, many groups on both sides of the issue are already talking about possible legal challenges, a process that could delay implementation by months or years.

It has been more than 15 years since the government changed the overtime rules.

Employers should remember in the meantime that paying an employee a salary does not make the employee exempt. Classification is nearly always about the duties.

Any employer questioning if one or more of its employees is currently misclassified or should be reclassified, needs to take the time to review the employee’s current duties to see if they meet the law’s requirements. While there is some degree of nuance in interpretation in deciding whether an employee is exempt, an employer needs to be able to justify its classification if challenged.

DOL has detailed information on its Web site.

If you have any questions about this or any other HR matter, please contact the AIM  Employer Hotline at 1-800-470-6277.

Topics: Employment Law, Overtime, Fair Labor Standards Act

Business Confidence Rebounds in February

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Mar 5, 2019 8:30:00 AM

Business confidence rebounded modestly during February as optimism about the state and national economies outweighed a darkening outlook among Massachusetts manufacturers.

BCI.February.2019The Associated Industries of Massachusetts Business Confidence Index (BCI) gained 0.5 points to 58.2 after dropping in January to its lowest level since October 2016. Confidence remains within optimistic territory but has lost 6.8 points during the past 12 months.

The February increase was driven by a 3.4-point jump in employer views of the state economy and a 3.3-point rise for the national economy. The government announced last week that the US economy grew at a 2.9 percent rate in 2018, matching 2015 as the biggest increase since the end of the 2007-2009 Great Recession.

“Employers remain generally optimistic about a state economy that continues to run at full-employment levels and a US economy that is projected to grow by 2.2 percent this year” said Raymond G. Torto, Chair of AIM's Board of Economic Advisors (BEA) and Lecturer, Harvard Graduate School of Design.

“At the same time, the erosion of confidence among Massachusetts manufacturers during the past 12 months raises some concern about the long-term sustainability of the recovery.”

The AIM Index, based on a survey of Massachusetts employers, has appeared monthly since July 1991. It is calculated on a 100-point scale, with 50 as neutral; a reading above 50 is positive, while below 50 is negative. The Index reached its historic high of 68.5 on two occasions in 1997-98, and its all-time low of 33.3 in February 2009.

The Index has remained above 50 since October 2013.

Constituent Indicators

The constituent indicators that make up the overall Business Confidence Index were mostly higher during February.

The 3.4-point increase in the Massachusetts Index assessing business conditions within the commonwealth left that indicator at 60.8. Confidence in the Massachusetts economy has declined 7.7 points since February 2018.

The U.S. Index measuring employer sentiment about the national economy rose to 56.0, its highest level since November. The reading was still 10.9 points less than a year ago.

Employer views about the future were more optimistic than the present for the first time in 11 months. The Current Index, which assesses overall business conditions at the time of the survey, fell 0.5 points to 57.7 while he Future Index, measuring expectations for six months out, increased 1.5 points to 58.7.

Non-manufacturers (61.7) were significantly more confident than manufacturers (53.3). Large companies (62.3) were more optimistic than either medium-sized companies (57.1) or small companies (55.2). Companies in Eastern Massachusetts (59.6) continued to be more bullish than those in the west (56.3).

“Employers last month welcomed several developments, including the end of the government shutdown and the Federal Reserve’s decision to pause increases in interest rates,” said Sara L. Johnson, Executive Director, Global Economics, IHS Markit and Vice Chairwoman of the BEA.

“The overall picture of business confidence reflects the economy itself – slowing a bit but still strong overall.”

Mixed Signals

AIM President and CEO Richard C. Lord, also BEA member, said the comments provided by employers on the February AIM Business Confidence Index Survey show that many companies remain bullish about 2019, while others remain concerned about issues ranging from gridlock in Washington to the persistent shortage of skilled employees.

“There are plenty of mixed signals 10 years into the economic recovery,” Lord said.

“Massachusetts employers face rising wage costs, rising raw-material costs and the challenge of integrating new public-policy mandates such as an increased minimum wage and paid family and medical leave. It’s the right time in the business cycle for state and federal government to follow the lead of the Federal Reserve and pause the imposition of expensive new initiatives.”

Topics: AIM Business Confidence Index, Massachusetts economy, Economy

AIM Submits Comments on Proposed Paid Leave Regulations

Posted by Brad MacDougall on Mar 4, 2019 9:00:00 AM

Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) today submitted to state regulators recommendations intended to clarify the impending rules for paid family and medical leave.

The recommendations range from aligning the definitions of paid leave with those of the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to defining the conditions under which employers may opt out of the state program and use a private insurance plan. More than 500 AIM member employers submitted comments to the association while the state Executive Office of Labor and Work Force Development conducted listening sessions on the issue.

TimelineAIM also suggested for the first time the possibility of postponing the July 1 implementation of contributions to paid family and medical leave if the system is not ready.

“Our overriding objective throughout this process is to ensure that the new program is launched efficiently, with minimal confusion or disruption for employers or their employees.  We are particularly concerned for our smaller employers for whom any new state mandate is challenging given their staffing levels,” AIM Executive Vice President John Regan noted in his comments to the new Department of Family and Medical Leave.

“Keeping this in mind, we are committed to staying in close communication with you, the Legislature, and the advocates with whom we have worked previously regarding the need for some delay which would ensure a first-class launch of this important program.”  

Regan commended state officials for listening to the suggestions of employers and others before developing draft regulations for the leave law passed by the Legislature and signed by Governor Baker last year. The administration has conducted listening sessions in Boston, Springfield, Lawrence, Worcester, Greenfield, Hyannis, Fall River and Pittsfield, with more sessions scheduled this week in Northbridge and Fitchburg.

The sweeping paid leave law provides workers with 12 weeks of family leave and 20 weeks of personal medical leave. Workers on paid leave will earn 80 percent of their wages up to 50 percent of the state average weekly wage, then 50 percent of wages above that amount, up to an $850 cap.

“Ensuring that these regulations provide clarity for employers and employees about how this new law will be implemented by the agency and operationalized by employers is a monumental task both for state government and the private sector.  We must continue to work collaboratively to get this right, because the risk of getting it wrong is intolerable,” Regan wrote.

AIM’s comments offer 12 specific suggestions:  

  1. Alignment with FMLA: Definitions wherever possible should be aligned with those of the FMLA to lessen compliance burdens. Using FMLA definitions makes it easier for employers and employees to avoid confusion.  It was agreed during legislative negotiations last year that definitions should be aligned with FMLA, especially because significant case law and clarity around law is already available.
  2. Private-plan option:  More clarity should be given to how this provision would work, including when aplan would need to be approved and what employers are to do if private plans are not available by July 1.
  3. Abuse: As proposed, the definitions, and other aspects of the proposed regulations, must set clear expectations for both the employer and employee and must provide clarity regarding employers' ability to address abuse. 
  4. Former employee coverage: The bill states that former employees have the right to job-protected leave and that they can take that leave on an intermittent or reduced schedule.  How does that work when they are no longer employed? Accruals:  As proposed, the regulations would allow an individual to accrue benefits while on leave, which is different than the earned sick time regulations and different from standard practices.
  5. Covered Individual:  As proposed, many temporary workers, vendors and subcontractors with their own companies being issued a 1099 will be captured by this and possibly required to make double payments.
  6. Benefit tracking and stacking: Regulations must provide clarity regarding how an employer can track the leave and make clear that benefit stacking with unemployment, workers compensation insurance and other benefits is not permitted.
  7. Job protection:  The law provides for job protection, which was enabled by the statute.  However, there are several instances, especially in temporary work, where back-filling and rapidly changing business environments would create an enormous cost and compliance burden.
  8. Health insurance contributions while on leave:  As proposed, the regulations do not provide a mechanism for employees to contribute to ongoing health-care coverage or a process by which an employer may transition and employee from current health-care coverage to COBRA per current practices. 
  9. Multiple employers: How will benefits be administered when an employee is employed on a part-time basis by two or more employers? Specifically, when one employer opts out of the state program and the other does not.
  10. Payroll Tax:May employers elect to cover the employee portion of the payroll tax for some classes of employees but not all classes of employees? 
  11. Timing of payroll tax: Large employers typically pay insurance premiums on or about the month for which the insurance coverage applies. The pre-payment of the payroll tax is problematic in the sense that it will be impossible for an employer to know if they are going to self-insure or use a private plan for January 1, 2021 by July 1, 2019. Likewise, insurance companies will not have developed private plans in time for July 1, 2019
  12. Appealing a Private-Plan Denial:allowing individuals to appeal private plan denials will result in all private plan denials being appealed, thus reducing the administrative efficiencies of offering private plans. 

AIM submitted to the state a relined version of the proposed regulations with all the comments proposed by AIM members.

Employers who wish to review the relined document or who wish to receive regular updates on paid family and medical leave may contact Brad MacDougall, bmacdougall@aimnet.org.

Topics: Regulation, Mandated Paid Leave, Paid Family Leave

Health Spending Moderates, But Employers Still Waiting to See Benefits

Posted by Katie Holahan on Feb 13, 2019 2:35:28 PM

Health-care spending in Massachusetts grew less than a key state benchmark and less than the national average during 2017, but employers and workers are not yet seeing the benefits.

health_careThe annual Health-Care Cost Trends Report issued today by the state Health Policy Commission (HPC) indicates that total per-capita health-care expenditures in Massachusetts rose 1.6 percent during 2016, significantly less than the 3.6 percent benchmark set by the commission. The Massachusetts growth rate also fell below the national rate - 3.1 percent – for the eighth consecutive year.

But the health-insurance premiums paid by Massachusetts employers and employees increased 5.8 percent in 2017, leaving the average total premium for employer-based coverage among the highest in the country at $21,000 per year for a family plan and $7,000 for a single employee. These figures do not include out-of-pocket spending such as co-payments and deductible spending, which grew 5.9 percent in 2017 for commercially-insured enrollees.

Premiums for smaller employers increased 6.9 percent and are now the second highest in the country, according to the HPC. Fifty-seven percent of small-firm (1-50 employees) employees are enrolled in high-deductible health plans.

“AIM-member employers told us in a recent survey that the rising cost of providing health insurance to employees is their biggest concern,” said Richard C. Lord, President and Chief Executive Officer of Associated Industries of Massachusetts and a member of the Health Policy Commission.

“The HPC report contains good news about health-care expenditures, but also underscores the need to look at issues such as price variations among doctors and hospitals that are driving up insurance premiums.”

Part of the reason that employers are not seeing more benefit from moderating health spending may be the fact that commercial insurers in Massachusetts pay higher prices to providers than Medicare pays for the same services. For hospital inpatient care, average prices among the three largest Massachusetts insurers were 57 percent higher than Medicare prices for similar patients ($15,913 versus $10,117, respectively).

Commercial insurers also paid considerably more for typical outpatient services, including brain MRIs, emergency department visits, and physician office visits.

The HPC attributed much of the overall increase health-care expenditures to spending on prescription drugs (4.1 percent) and hospital outpatient services (4.9 percent). The commission also found that medical bills can vary as much as 30 percent from one hospital or medical group to another with no measurable different in quality of care.

The HPC makes 11 policy recommendations to continue health spending moderation. Highlights include:

Unnecessary utilization: The Commonwealth should focus on reducing unnecessary utilization and increasing the provision of coordinated care in high-value, low-cost settings. Payers and providers should reduce the use of avoidable high-cost care such as emer­gency department (ED) visits, behavioral health-related ED visits, readmissions, use of teaching hospitals and academic medical centers for community-appropri­ate inpatient care, and institutional post-acute care by ensuring access to high-value, low cost settings, and for shifting care, as appropriate, to these settings.

Provider price variation: Policymakers should advance specific, data-driven interventions to address the press­ing issue of continued provider price variation in the coming year.

Alternative payment methods: The Commonwealth should continue to promote the increased adoption of alternative payment methods (APMs). Also, as part of a strategy to reduce spending, payers should develop plans to lessen the unwarranted disparities in global budgets paid to different providers by establishing stricter targets for spending growth for highly paid providers, by moving away from historical spending as the basis of global budgets, and by using bundled payments for certain care episodes where evidence has shown effectiveness.

Pharmaceutical spending: The Commonwealth should act to reduce drug spending growth. Specific areas of focus should include authorizing the Executive Office of Health and Human Services to establish a process that allows for a rigorous review of certain high-cost drugs, increasing the ability of MassHealth to negotiate directly with drug manufacturers for additional supplemental rebates and outcomes-based contracts, and increasing public transparency and public oversight for pharmaceutical manufacturers, medical device companies, and pharmacy benefit managers.

As a leader of the Massachusetts Employer Health Coalition, AIM is working with employers, employees, doctors, hospitals, and health insurers to reduce inappropriate use of emergency departments by 20 percent in two years. State officials estimate that a significant number of ED visits are potentially avoidable, a pattern that costs $300-$350 million annually for commercially insured members. Please check out our website for resources and information.

Topics: Health Care Costs, Health Insurance, Health Care

Business Confidence Slides Again in January

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Feb 12, 2019 8:30:00 AM

Stabilizing financial markets and continued strong employment were not enough to brighten the outlook of Massachusetts employers during January as business confidence fell for the fifth time in seven months.

BCI.January.2019The Associated Industries of Massachusetts Business Confidence Index (BCI) lost 0.9 points to 57.7, its lowest level since October 2016. Confidence has dropped 6.4 points during the past 12 months.

The retreat was led by a 7.3-point drop in employer views of the Massachusetts economy, and a 2.4-point drop in opinions about the national economy.

Overall confidence remains within optimistic territory, but every element of the AIM Index is now lower than it was a year ago.

A separate survey within the January Business Confidence Index found that while 71 percent of Massachusetts employers have seen some effect from the US government’s imposition of tariffs on goods form China and other nations, only 10 percent of companies characterize the effect as “significant” or a threat to the existence of their business.

The most common consequence of the tariffs has been an increase in raw-material prices, followed by changes to the supply chain, supply interruptions, products affected by retaliatory tariffs and loss of overseas customers.

“The Massachusetts economy grew at 2.1 percent during the fourth quarter of 2018 and continues to operate at near full capacity,” said Raymond G. Torto, Chair of AIM's Board of Economic Advisors (BEA) and Lecturer, Harvard Graduate School of Design.

“At the same time, employers continue to confront uncertainty surrounding trade policy, demographic constraints on the labor market and the implementation of a sweeping paid family and medical leave program in Massachusetts.”

The AIM Index, based on a survey of Massachusetts employers, has appeared monthly since July 1991. It is calculated on a 100-point scale, with 50 as neutral; a reading above 50 is positive, while below 50 is negative. The Index reached its historic high of 68.5 on two occasions in 1997-98, and its all-time low of 33.3 in February 2009.

The Index has remained above 50 since October 2013.

Constituent Indicators  

The constituent indicators that make up the overall Business Confidence Index were mixed during January.

The 7.3-point drop in the Massachusetts Index assessing business conditions within the commonwealth left that indicator at 57.4. Confidence in the Massachusetts economy has declined 11.5 points since January 2018.

The U.S. Index measuring employer sentiment about the national economy dropped 2.4 points to 52.7, a decline of 12.1 points year-over-year. It marked the lowest reading for the U.S. Index since November 2016.

The Current Index, which assesses overall business conditions at the time of the survey, fell 1.8 points to 58.2. The Future Index, measuring expectations for six months out, remained flat at 57.3 but has declined 9.3 points over 12 months.

Manufacturers (57.8) and non-manufacturers (57.7) were equally confident. There was also little difference in the confidence readings reported by large companies (57.9), medium-sized companies (57.7) and small companies (57.6). Companies in Eastern Massachusetts (59.4) were more bullish than those in the west (55.3).

Economist Barry Bluestone, retired Professor of Public Policy and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University and a member of the BEA, suggested that employers face two parallel sets of challenges - uncertainty about political issues such as tariffs and a more fundamental uncertainty about the limits of a full-employment state economy. He noted that wage and salary income growth was strong in the fourth quarter, rising 7.2 percent in Massachusetts on an annualized basis.

“A 3.3 percent unemployment rate, combined with an aging population and slow labor force growth will challenge the ability of Massachusetts employers to expand during 2019 and beyond,” Bluestone said.

Piling On Costs

AIM President and CEO Richard C. Lord, also BEA member, said the significant weakening of confidence in the Massachusetts economy also reflects frustration among employers with a cascade of expensive new state mandates, including a two-year MassHealth assessment, an increase in the minimum wage and the impending start of paid family and medical leave.

“We hear frequently from Massachusetts employers who feel under siege from both the sheer expense of these programs and the administrative burden they place on companies, particularly smaller companies,” Lord said.

Topics: AIM Business Confidence Index, Massachusetts economy, Massachusetts employers

Video Blog | Economic Outlook 2019

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Feb 1, 2019 9:11:06 AM

The AIM Economic Outlook Forum on January 25 looked at creative solutions to the persistent shortage of skilled workers in Massachusetts. Watch as WBZ radio morning news anchor Jeff Brown moderates a discussion with Robin LeClaire, President of Lampin Corporation in Uxbridge; Massachusetts Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development Rosalin Acosta and UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy.

Topics: Skills Gap, Massachusetts economy, AIM Executive Forum

AIM's John Regan Talks Issues on Comcast Newsmakers

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Jan 31, 2019 12:38:52 PM

John Regan, AIM's Executive Vice President of Government Affairs, recently joined Comcast Newsmakers and host Jenny Johnson for a look at the issues facing employers as the Massachusetts Legislature begins a new, two-year session.

Regan.Comcast.2019

 

 

 

Topics: Massachusetts Legislature, Associated Industries of Massachusetts, Charlie Baker

10 Things Employers Need to Know about Paid Family/Medical Leave

Posted by Brad MacDougall on Jan 31, 2019 10:42:45 AM

The Baker Administration last week published draft regulations for implementation of paid family and medical leave in Massachusetts.

Pregnant2-1Paid family and medical leave were approved by the Legislature and signed by Governor Charlie Baker last year as part of the so-called Grand Bargain between the advocacy group Raise Up Massachusetts and the business community. The newly published regulations represent the “rules of the road” that employers and workers will follow as the law takes effect beginning in July.

AIM has been working for months with the Executive Office of Workforce Development to address employer concerns about what will be a major new benefit program. More than 700 AIM members with an interest in paid family and medical leave are currently reviewing the draft regulations and formulating comments.

The state is conducting seven listening sessions though February 19 to provide employers and others an opportunity to comment on the draft regulations.

In the meantime, here are 10 facts that employers need to know about paid family and medical leave as outlined in the draft regulations:

  1. When it begins

    On July 1, employers and/or their workers must begin to pay 0.63 percent of all wages or other qualifying earnings or payments into the Family and Employment Security Trust Fund. Employees may take family or medical leave beginning January 1, 2021.

  2. Who pays?

    The employer is required to pay at least 60 percent of the medical leave contribution required for each employee. The employer is required to pay none of the contribution for family leave. Employers may, of course, pay a higher percentage for each category of leave or elect to pay the entire contribution for each employee. The employer may deduct the medical leave and family leave contributions directly from wages or other qualifying payments made to the employee or individual. Companies employing an average of fewer than 25 employees in Massachusetts will not be required to pay the employer portion of premiums for either family or medical leave.

  3. Surprise contribution for employees?

    Employers who elect to pay less than the entire family and medical leave contribution will need to communicate to employees the news that an additional several hundred dollars will be deducted from their paychecks each year. Few employees realize they may be required to pay into the family and medical leave system.

  4. How much leave?

    Beginning January 1, 2021, covered individuals are eligible for up to 26 total weeks, in the aggregate, of family and medical leave in a benefit year.

    Beginning January 1, 2021, covered individuals are eligible for up to 12 weeks of family leave in a benefit year for the birth, adoption, or foster care placement of a child, or because of a qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that a family member is on active duty or has been notified of an impending call to active duty in the Armed Forces.

    Beginning January 1, 2021, covered individuals are eligible for up to 26 weeks of family leave in a benefit year to care for a family member who is a covered service member.

    Beginning January 1, 2021, covered individuals are eligible for up to 20 weeks of medical leave in a benefit year if they have a serious health condition that incapacitates them from work.

    Beginning July 1, 2021, covered individuals are eligible for up to 12 weeks of family leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition.
  1. The pay in paid leave

    An individual’s paid family or medical leave weekly benefit amount is calculated as follows: (a) The portion of an individual’s average weekly wage that is equal to, or less than, 50 percent of the state average weekly wage is replaced at a rate of 80 percent; the portion of an individual’s average weekly wage that is more than 50 percent of the state average weekly wage is replaced at a rate of 50 per cent. The initial maximum weekly benefit amount is $850. Thereafter, the maximum weekly benefit amount for any individual will be 64 percent of the state average weekly wage.

  2. We are family

    The regulations define a family member as a spouse, domestic partner, child, parent or parent of a spouse or domestic partner of the covered individual; a person who stood in loco parentis to the covered individual when the covered individual was a minor child; or a grandchild, grandparent or sibling of the covered individual.

  3. Intermittent leave

    An employee may take family or medical leave on an intermittent basis for family leave to bond with a child during the first 12 months after the child’s birth, adoption, or foster care placement, but only if the employer and employee agree to it. Employees may also take intermittent family leave if medically necessary to care for a family member’s serious health condition; to care for a family member who is a covered service member, or for or the employee’s own serious health condition.

  4. Contractors

    An employer with a work force that is more than 50 percent self-employed individuals whose compensation is recorded on Internal Revenue Service form 1099-MISC shall treat those self-employed individuals as employees for the purposes of determining a company’s number of employees under the paid family and medical leave law.
  1. Exemptions

    An employer with an existing, private benefit plan that confers the same rights, protections and benefits provided under the state program make apply for an exemption from the public plan. An employer may apply for exemptions from medical leave coverage, family leave coverage, or both.

  2. Self-employed people

    A self-employed individual may elect coverage and become a covered individual for an initial period of not less than three years. A self-employed individual who elects coverage is responsible for the full contribution amount, based on that individual’s income from self-employment. If a self-employed individual elects coverage and fails to remit contributions owed for at least three years, the self-employed individual will be disqualified from electing coverage thereafter.

Want regular updates on paid family and medical leave in Massachusetts? Please contact Brad MacDougall at bmacdougall@aimnet.org

Topics: Employment Law, Massachusetts employers, Paid Family Leave

Few Employers Change Drug Tests with Legal Marijuana

Posted by Tom Jones on Jan 30, 2019 8:30:00 AM

Drugtest1.2019Only 10 percent of employers plan to change their drug-testing policies now that recreational marijuana is legal in Massachusetts, a new Associated Industries of Massachusetts survey shows.

The member survey, conducted by AIM HR Solutions, found that two-thirds of the 52 Massachusetts employers who participated say they drug-test employees or job candidates. Three quarters of the companies that conduct drug tests do so for marijuana (THC).

Kyle Pardo, Vice President of Consulting Services for AIM HR Solutions, said the limited number of companies planning to change their marijuana testing policies reflects widespread uncertainty among employers as legal cannabis impinges on the idea of a drug-free workplace.

“Testing detects the presence of marijuana long after an employee may have used the drug during non-work hours. But there is no clear test to determine whether or not that employee is impaired and may represent a danger to co-workers or customers,” Pardo said.

Drugtest2.2019“It has created a confusing situation for employers.”

Recreational marijuana became legal in Massachusetts in 2016 and retail pot dispensaries began to open throughout the state at the end of last year.

Massachusetts law does not require any accommodation of on-site medical or recreational use of marijuana in any workplace or permit employees to come to work under any controlled substance. A recent Massachusetts Supreme Judicial decision requires employers to address an employee with a medical marijuana card in the same manner as those using any other lawfully prescribed medication.

Adding to the confusion is that employers in some federally regulated industries such as trucking and transportation, as well as many federal contractors are required to drug-test employees. Marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

Pardo recommends that employers make sure their hiring process and progressive discipline policy contain information on the drug testing policy and that applicants and employees sign for and acknowledge their understanding of such processes and policies.

Topics: Employment Law, Massachusetts employers, Marijuana

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