Associated Industries of Massachusetts weighed in yesterday on 73 bills pending before a key legislative committee considering employment-law issues ranging from independent contractors to the use of non-compete agreements.
The association delivered a letter to members of the Joint Labor & Workforce Development Committee as the panel approaches a February 7 deadline to report out bills with either a positive or negative recommendation. AIM supports 29 bills now before the committee and opposes 44.
Among the measures that employers support are bills streamlining the complex definition of an independent contractor and compromise limitations on non-compete agreements that recognize the fact that employers often compensate workers for signing such agreements.
AIM opposes bills that would establish paid family and medical leave, increase the minimum wage, and impose vicarious liability for wage violations on any company that hires subcontractors. AIM also opposes legislation (S.1013) that would create civil liability and define workplace bullying.
“The February 7 deadline for Beacon Hill committees to report out bills under the Legislature’s Joint Rule 10 signals the start of a critical period for employers and the issues that affect them,” said John Regan, Executive Vice President of Government Affairs at AIM.
“There will be a flurry of activity between now and the end of the two-year legislative session on July 31. Employers need to pay close attention since important bills often move quickly during this period.”
The independent contractor issue revolves around an overly restrictive statute that leaves Massachusetts on the sidelines of one of the fastest developing sectors of the economy.
One out of every three American workers, from software engineers and researchers to graphic designers, freelance journalists and nannies, today works independently outside the bounds of traditional 9-to-5 employment. The trend includes the so-called sharing economy that provides apps allowing individuals to exchange goods and services ranging from rides to housecleaning.
But Massachusetts' share of that job growth is threatened by a state law that imposes a confusing and complex three-factor test to determine whether a worker is an employee or independent contractor.
On non-compete agreements, AIM has fought relentlessly for several years on behalf the vast majority of Massachusetts employers who wish to preserve the use of non-competes to protect intellectual property. The association supports a compromise that would limit non-competes to one year and give employees the opportunity to consult a lawyer when signing a non-compete, but not require companies that compensate employees at the time they sign non-competes to pay them again during the restricted period.
AIM also supports a group of measures intended to address discrimination and harassment in the workplace. One bill would allow employers to ask previous employers questions about an applicant’s work history (H.1046), while a second would encourage employers to engage in voluntary training regarding non-discrimination (H.1037/H.1047) and third would rewrite a highly confusing and problematic statute that makes adding disciplinary matters to a personnel record difficult (H.1049/S.1044).
The paid family and medical leave and minimum wage initiatives opposed by employers mirror similar measures headed to the statewide ballot in November. A third ballot question would create a constitutional amendment imposing a 4 percentage-point surtax on incomes of more than $1 million for thousands of subchapter-S and other pass-through business in Massachusetts.
AIM President and Chief Executive Officer Richard C. Lord and four other prominent business leaders are challenging the proposed tax amendment in court.
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