Attorney General Maura Healey told more than 800 business leaders at the AIM Annual Meeting May 17 that she looks forward to collaborating with employers on key issues such as education, substance abuse, health care and clean energy. Watch her remarks here.
Attorney General Maura Healey told more than 800 business leaders at the AIM Annual Meeting Friday that she looks forward to collaborating with employers on key issues such as education, substance abuse, health care and clean energy.
Noting that she and previous attorneys general have worked closely with AIM on everything from health-care reform to implementation of paid sick days, Healey said the association has always based its advocacy on facts and knowledge.
“We look forward to building on Rick (Lord’s) legacy,” Healey said.
“I am firmly of the view that the problems we face today are not going to be solved by government. They will be solved by all of us working together.”
Healey made her remarks shortly after Lord symbolically handed over the job of president and CEO of AIM to John Regan, who has directed AIM’s government affairs advocacy for the past 12 years.
The attorney general said Lord was one of the first business leaders to whom she spoke when she became a candidate for the office. The two met during a driving snowstorm and spent an extended time discussing the burden that health-care costs placed on employers and the challenges of moderating energy prices.
“Under Rick’s leadership this organization has grown in amazing ways,” she said.
Healey’s collaborative agenda remains ambitious now that Regan is taking the reins at AIM.
She told the audience that the key to maintaining stability in the health-care market is to preserve the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA). Some 2.5 million Massachusetts residents have a pre-existing medical condition and 400,000 gained health-insurance coverage through the Medicaid expansion made possible by ACA, according to Healey.
The attorney general also noted the support of the Massachusetts business community for civil rights, stretching from the Goodridge decision establishing marriage equality to opposing a question on the 2018 statewide ballot that would have rolled back protections for transgender individuals.
She decried the new Alabama law restricting access to abortion by making an economic argument. Women are more than half the population and half of the work force, so anything that prevents women from full participation in the employment market will impede economic growth.
Healey concluded by saying that the commonwealth’s formula for funding education must change.
“Your zip code should never determine the quality of education you receive,” she said.
Attorney General Maura Healey today issued much-anticipated guidance for employers on complying with the new Massachusetts wage-equity law that takes effect on July 1.
The 30-page guidance document addresses key issues such as the definition of comparable work, the employees who will be covered by the law, permissible variations in pay, and the subjects that may no longer be discussed during employment interviews. There is also a downloadable calculator designed to help smaller businesses to identify differences in pay that may require analysis.
“Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) and its member employers are pleased to have played a constructive role in the development of the pay equity law and guidance,” said Richard C. Lord, President & CEO of AIM.
“We appreciate the efforts of Attorney General Healey and staff who have taken seriously the opinions of the employer community. AIM is now committed to helping Massachusetts businesses comply with the law and we look forward to working with the attorney general on those efforts.”
The first step in that compliance education effort will take place on March 13 and 15 as Genevieve Nadeau, Chief of the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Division, will join two AIM webinars looking at details of the new law. The March 13 webinar is for small employers while the March 15 session is for larger employers.
The law provides different compliance measures based on the size of a company’s comparable-work groups. For the purposes of the two webinars, large employers are those with one or more comparable work groups with 30 or more employees. Comparable work groups cross organizational lines and departments and are comprised of jobs for which work is substantially similar in that it requires substantially similar skill, effort and responsibility and is performed under similar working conditions.
Smaller employers will likely be able to use the Attorney General's calculator exclusively. AIM members with questions about their status may call the Employer Hotline at 800-470-6277.
The wage-equity law, signed by Governor Charlie Baker on August 1, 2016, is intended to promote salary transparency, limit questions to job candidates about salary history, and encourage companies to conduct reviews to detect pay disparities. But the law also recognizes legitimate bases for pay differences among employees such as performance and differences in education, training, and experience.
The law states that “no employer shall discriminate in any way based on gender in the payment of wages, or pay any person in its employ a salary or wage rate less than the rates paid to its employees of a different gender for comparable work.
The Attorney General’s guidance document outlines the instances under which wage differentials are permitted. Those differentials may be based upon:
- a system that rewards seniority with the employer;
- a merit system;
- a system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production, sales, or revenue;
- the geographic location in which a job is performed;
- education, training or experience to the extent such factors are reasonably related to the job in question; or
- travel, if the travel is a regular and necessary condition of the job.
Joining Nadeau for the AIM small-business wage-equity webinar will be Kyle Pardo, Vice President of AIM HR Solutions, and David Wilson and Arielle Kristan, lawyers at the firm of Hirsch Roberts and Weinstein. The expert panel for the large-company webinar will include Nadeau, Pardo, and lawyers Robert Fisher and Hillary Massey of Seyfarth Shaw LLP. Fisher chairs AIM’s HR-Labor Law Committee.
The approach that Massachusetts takes to key employer issues such as health care and energy will depend heavily on decisions that will be made during the next several months by the Trump Administration, Attorney General Maura Healey said this morning.
The good news, Healey told several hundred business leaders at the AIM Executive Forum, is that Massachusetts is prepared for such uncertainty because of the collaborative policy work that has been done by several governors, the legislature, the attorney general’s office and the private sector.
She pointed to the fact that Massachusetts has its own health-care reform law that will remain even if President Trump and Congress change some or all of the Affordable Care Act. She also noted that the Legislature passed a wide-ranging energy bill earlier this year to diversify the commonwealth’s energy supply.
“I would love to have the Massachusetts way to be the American way,” Healey said.
The attorney general opened her remarks with several observations on the presidential election and her decision to establish a hotline for people to report incidents of bias or harassment. She reported that more than 200 people from all sides of the political spectrum have called the hotline in the past two days.
“It sends a message that we know the difference between right and wrong,” Healey said.
She acknowledged that the degree to which the Trump Administration changes Medicaid funding levels - and potentially shifts that funding to block grants - will have a significant effect on the Massachusetts health-care system. The attorney general’s office has issues multiple reports looking at rising health-care costs in Massachusetts and methods to improve the market.
“Regardless of federal changes, the legal framework Massachusetts put in place under Governor Romney, that served as the model for the ACA, remains. So, in key ways, I believe we are strongly positioned to keep our health care systems running smoothly. But we need everyone at the table and working together.
“While we get ready to respond to changes at the federal level, we will continue to work on our affordability agenda here at the state level. And there’s plenty to do on this front.”
Energy policy will also depend on the direction of a president who campaigned on the need to exploit coal and other traditional fuels to control the cost of electricity. Healey said the new Massachusetts energy law commits the commonwealth to diversifying its energy portfolio through a competitive market.
“I believe diversification of our energy sources is critical,” she said.
“The role for my office is to make sure that we have a competitive, transparent process that results in cost-effective contracts and minimize customer risk.”
Healey said the trend of collaboration between employers and her office continued earlier this year with passage of the nation’s first pay-equity law. AIM worked with Healey and legislative leaders on a compromise bill that ensures fair compensation for all workers while allowing employers to attract and retain skilled employees.
A continued migration of patients to high-priced doctors and hospitals means that Massachusetts is unlikely to meet its benchmark for health-care cost increases in 2015, according to a new report by Attorney General Maura Healey.
The report finds that widely disparate prices paid to medical providers – differences unexplained by provider quality – have created a market in which patients continue to utilize higher cost providers, driving up health care costs. The effects of the market dysfunction, coupled with anticipated growth in pharmacy costs and utilization of health care services, raise serious concerns about the commonwealth's ability to meet the 3.6 percent benchmark for increases in health costs.
“Not enough has changed and it certainly has not changed fast enough,” Healey said Friday during a meeting with the Associated Industries of Massachusetts Board of Directors.
“We need to do more. We have to act now.”
The report finds that the most highly-paid doctors and hospitals continue to grow market share, further increasing costs. And global payments, while having positive effects, have tended to lock in historic payment differentials, thus sustaining disparities in the resources available to different providers to carry out their mission.
The report recommends encouraging innovation in the health-care industry and strengthening and expanding consumer incentives - initiatives that will necessarily involve employers.
The report points to the importance of simplifying the cost and quality information provided to employers when they are choosing coverage, especially across providers. Clear information should also be provided to employees during enrollment and when they are choosing their primary care group.
On the "supply side" – doctors, hospitals and insurers - the attorney general’s report suggests implementing incentives and penalties evenly by giving efficient providers more room to grow (under the benchmark) than less efficient providers. The report also points to different ways of monitoring and understanding disparities in health care resources, whether that be directly regulating variation in provider prices or tracking income/health adjusted status by zip code.
“This latest in a series of reports on health-care by the Massachusetts attorney general raises concerns about rising costs for employers who provide health insurance to workers,” said Richard C. Lord, President and Chief Executive Officer of Associated Industries of Massachusetts and a member of the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission.
“The data and graphs in the report have real consequences for real employers and real workers. The cost of health insurance remains a central issue for the Massachusetts economy.”
The report found that enrollment in tiered insurance products has increased, but the presence of these products has not resulted in an overall shift in patient volume away from higher priced providers. Current approaches appear hampered by inconsistent incentives for consumers to obtain care at higher value providers.
The Health Policy Commission will conduct its annual hearing on health-care costs in Massachusetts October 5 and 6.
Attorney General Maura Healey on Friday issued final regulations for the state’s earned sick-time law, rules that clarify major employer concerns from the ability to use existing paid-time off benefits to preventing abuse.
The regulations outline conditions that will allow some companies to comply with the law through their existing time-off plans, as long as those plans provide employees with as much or more sick time as the law, and observe prohibitions on retaliation and interference.
The rules also assert that earned sick-time runs concurrently with certain other federal and state leave laws and that an employee who leaves for longer than four months and hasn’t accrued at least 10 hours of sick time will not be able to carry over any hours when he or she returns.
Employers now have nine days to digest the regulations before the earned sick time law takes effect on July 1.
Associated Industries of Massachusetts, which filed 19 pages of comments to the regulations based on thousands of questions posed by member employers, commended the attorney general for responding to business concerns under a tight timeline.
“The attorney general really was listening to the legitimate concerns of businesspeople who want to comply with this new law. We give her high marks for this,” said Richard C. Lord, President and Chief Executive Officer.
“AIM has worked with employers throughout the regulation and process and is now prepared to help those employers understand the regulations and comply with them.”
AIM will conduct a series of seminars throughout the commonwealth during July that will review specifics of the regulations and look at a model policy and sample documents.
Among the issues of interest to employers in the final regulations:
- An employer may require documentation for absence that exceeds three consecutive days; that occurs within two weeks of leaving a position; after four unforeseeable absences in a three- month period; or after three unforeseeable absences in a three-month period for employees 17 or under.
- Employees using earned sick time are compensated at their regular rate of pay, plus any shift differential. Overtime and contributions to health insurance or other benefits are excluded.
- Employees with multiple rates of pay may be compensated for earned sick time either at the rate that would have applied on the date of absence or at a blended rate calculated on the prior pay period, month, quarter or other period of time.
- Piecework employees accrue sick time through a reasonable projection of hours worked based on established practices or billing.
- Earned sick time may not be used as an excuse for being late without an authorized purpose.
- An employee may not accept a shift assignment with the intention of calling out sick for all or part of the shift.
- The employer may discipline employees for clear pattern of using earned sick time before or after weekends or holidays.
- The minimum increment of time for using earned sick time is one hour, though employers may use fractions of an hour for time more than an hour if their payroll system can track such fractions.
- Employers that provide 40 hours of paid time off in a lump sum at the start of the year do not have to track accruals or allow the carryover of earned sick time from year to year, provided the use of the time is consistent with earned sick time.
- Employers may opt to delay accruals of earned sick time for employees with a bank of 40 hours until the bank is reduced below 40 hours.
- Employers that choose to offer time off through a paid time-off or vacation policy that complies with the earned sick time law do not have to track and keep a separate record of earned sick time use.
- Employers using existing paid time-off policies must ensure that all used time enjoys the same job protection. The employer may have different policies for different groups of employees as long as all employees accrue and use same amount of time under same conditions.
Employers must also determine during the next several days whether they wish to seek the “safe harbor” that will provide them a six-month transition period for complying with the earned sick time law. Companies seeking the safe harbor are required to extend the leave or paid time off to all employees, both full and part-time.
Attorney General Maura Healey today issued updated rules for companies seeking to qualify for the “safe harbor” provision of the new state Earned Sick-Time law by extending paid time off to part-time employees.
Healey announced on May 17 a six-month transition period for companies with existing paid time-off plans to comply with the new sick-time law, which is scheduled to take effect on July 1. Companies seeking the safe harbor were required to extend the leave or paid time off to all employees, both full-time and part-time, but employers questioned whether part-timers would qualify for the full 30 hours of leave.
The update issued by the attorney general today allows employers to extend earned sick time proportionally to part-time employees and to employees hired after July 1.
Healey also issued the Earned Sick Time notice that employers will be required to post in the workplace. The notice contains several important elements, including the fact that the smallest increment of sick time that employees may take is one hour and that sick time “cannot be used as an excuse to be late for work without advance notice of a proper use.”
“The attorney general’s office has, once again, showed a willingness to listen to the comments of employers who wish to comply in good faith with the Earned Sick-Time law. These updates provide clarity as employers work to align their existing paid time-off plans with the new regulations,” said Richard C. Lord, President and Chief Executive Officer of AIM.
The safe harbor transition allows any employer with a paid time-off policy in existence as of May 1 that provides to employees the right to use at least 30 hours of paid time off during the calendar year 2015 to be in compliance with the law from July 1 through January 1, 2016. The time off must be job protected.
The provision is intended to address concerns among employers that they will not be able to adjust their payroll systems during the short period between the issuance of final regulations later this month and the July 1 effective date of the law approved by Massachusetts voters.
The updated regulations address the issue of part-time and new employees as follows:
“On and after July 1, 2015, all employees not previously covered by the policy, including part-time employees, new employees, and per diem employees must either accrue paid time off at the same rate of accrual as covered full-time employees; or if the policy provides lump sum allocations, receive a prorated lump sum allocation based on the provision of lump sum paid time off/sick leave to covered full-time employees.
“Such lump sum allocations may:
- where lump sums of paid time off are provided annually, be halved for employees who receive coverage as of July 1, 2015, and proportionately reduced for employees hired after July 1, 2015; and/or
- be proportionate for part-time employees.
The update and poster are available for download on the attorney general’s Earned Sick Time Web site: www.mass.gov/ago/earnedsicktime.
AIM urges employers to read the full text of the safe harbor update and to make comments to elected officials using the AIMVoice button, below. Today is the final day of the Notice and Comment period on the Earned Sick-Time Regulations.
Associated Industries of Massachusetts filed 19 pages of comments to the proposed Earned Sick Time regulations Saturday as Attorney General Maura Healey and the business community continued to discuss a clarification of the “safe harbor” provision for companies that wish to extend existing paid time-off programs to part-time workers.
Healey announced on May 17 a six-month transition period for companies with existing paid time-off plans to comply with the new sick-time law, which is scheduled to take effect on July 1. The safe harbor transition allowed any employer with a paid time-off policy in existence as of May 1 that provides to employees the right to use at least 30 hours of paid time off during the calendar year 2015 to be in compliance with the law from July 1 through January 1, 2016.
Companies seeking the safe harbor were required to extend the leave or paid time off to all employees, both full-time and part-time, but employers have questioned whether part-timers would qualify for the full 30 hours of leave.
AIM has proposed that companies qualify for the six-month transition by extending leave proportionally to part-time employees. So if full-timers qualify for 30 hours of leave, half-time employees would earn 15 hours. Discussions are ongoing, but no final agreement had been reached as of the week-end.
AIM’s formal comments seek to clarify the regulations employers will have to follow under the new law and head off an expected onslaught of lawsuits growing out of inconsistencies in the rules.
“While the safe harbor provision does provide relief, it does not prevent creative attorneys from filing lawsuits. We are concerned that after July 1 many businesses will be subjected to lawsuits from aggressive plaintiffs’ attorneys seeking to leverage the commonwealth’s treble damages statute that provides for attorney’s fees under the law,” the comments state.
“AIM believes that like the state’s healthcare and data security laws, the earned sick time law will take time, effort and money to implement properly and responsibly.”
AIM maintains in its comments that many of the proposed earned sick-time regulations are not supported by the statute.
Specific recommendations include:
- Change the one-year break-in-service provision to four months to align with federal health care reform.
- Require employees to explicitly tell employers whether the time off they seek is earned sick time.
- Allow employers to discipline employees who fail to comply with reasonable documentation requirements.
- Allow employers to terminate workers who have engaged in fraud and abuse of the earned sick-time law.
- Count only hours worked in Massachusetts toward the accrual of earned sick time.
AIM’s comments were distilled from thousands of responses and questions posed by employers across Massachusetts. More than 700 companies participated in a recent AIM Webinar explaining the proposed regulations.
Attorney General Healey is expected to issue final regulations later this month.
VoterVoice Call to Action: https://www.votervoice.net/AIM/campaigns/40134/respond