Recent Legislative Updates

http://canadian-pharmacies.org/ Clomid July 2017

Workers’ Compensation Rate to be Reduced for Fiscal Year 2018

At the very beginning of July, the Baker-Polito Administration announced that the assessment rate employers pay to the state on workers’ compensation insurance policies will be reduced.

According to a press release issued by the Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, for FY18, employers will pay an assessment of 4.56 percent on their total insurance premium, which is an 18.57 percent decrease from the previous rate of 5.6 percent. The new rate will go into effect July 1, 2017.
The Department of Industrial Accidents (DIA), an agency within the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, administers the workers’ compensation insurance system, and annually establishes assessment rates. During FY17, the Baker-Polito Administration reduced the rate from 5.75 to 5.6 percent, and from 5.8 to 5.75 percent in the previous fiscal year.

The Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation system ensures that workers are protected by insurance if they are injured on the job or develop a work-related illness.
Under this system, all employers in Massachusetts are required by state law, Mass. Gen. Laws Ch. 152, §25A, to carry workers’ compensation insurance covering their employees. The insurance pays for any reasonable and necessary medical treatment for a job-related injury or illness; pays compensation for lost wages after the first five calendar days of full or partial disability; and in some cases provides retraining for employees who qualify.

DIA is funded through assessments on workers’ compensation policies, and self-insurance programs for employers operating in Massachusetts. In addition, DIA collects statutory fines and fees.

Labor and Workforce Committee Holds Hearings on Paid Family and Medical Leave Act and Wage Theft Legislation

The month of June was a busy one for the legislature’s Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development as it held public hearings on two significant employee bills: the family and medical leave act and wage theft.

House Bill 2172 / House Bill 3134 / Senate Bill 1048, Acts Establishing a Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program, would create a family and medical leave program insurance program under the Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development. The new program would be funded by “to be determined” employer contributions. Employees will apply to the fund for benefits. While setting staggered implementation periods, an employee could receive 50 percent salary replacement levels as early as 2019 with the level increased to 90 percent by January of 2021. Such calculations will be adjusted accordingly based on the consumer price index for the greater metropolitan Boston area.

A number of employer organizations, including the Associated Industries of Massachusetts and the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, opposed the legislation during an all-day hearing in which numerous employee organizations and advocacy groups testified in favor of the legislation. UCANE, which submitted written testimony in opposition to the legislation, largely did so due to the breadth and unknown reach of these legislative proposals. The proposed Massachusetts law would be the most generous in the country and could have a negative effect on companies considering locating or expanding in Massachusetts. In particular, UCANE’s written testimony, in part, stated,

“As drafted, the proposed legislation presents a myriad of challenges to employers – not the least of which is that the legislation contains many unknown variables. In particular, this legislation does not identify what each employer will be required to pay to the proposed program. Contractors often engage in multi-year projects. Without understanding the potential costs associated with the creation of this program, contractors entering into long-term construction and development projects run the risk of incurring unknown additional costs. In the extremely competitive construction industry in Massachusetts, this may mean the difference between a company being profitable or not.

Further, as drafted, the legislation creates a variety of responsibilities for employers, employees, and government, but, to date, there have been no comprehensive studies by independent third parties that analyze how this law will impact the Commonwealth’s economy and workforce. As demonstrated by recent employment laws, such as the paid leave act or the treble damage award act for certain wage mistakes, the legislature must consider all facets and impacts of this type of legislation to avoid unintended consequences. The growth of MassHealth and the potential impact of losing federal funds for health care has already led to a discussion about increasing employer-based taxes to cover the shortfall. In light of the Commonwealth’s unknown fiscal needs notwithstanding the additional concern about our missed revenue projections for the current fiscal year, now is not the time for the legislature to consider additional employer based taxes.”

The issue of creating a family and medical leave program in the Commonwealth has been brewing for some time. Proponents for the creation of the program have stated that they will attempt to pass a ballot question if the legislature fails to act this session. Opponents have argued that the program only exists in a few states and, while well intentioned, could lead to a variety of unseen consequences. It is largely expected that the legislation, which passed the Senate last session, will receive a favorable report from the Committee.

Later in the same month, the Committee held another public hearing on Senate Bill 999 / House Bill 1033, An Act to Prevent Wage Theft and Promote Employer Accountability. The legislation, which was also passed by the Senate last session, would create vicarious liability for employers who utilize subcontractors in addition to empowering the Attorney General to enforce wage laws through a private right of action. At the hearing, over 30 employee advocacy groups testified in support of the legislation.

UCANE, as a member of the employer based coalition formed to oppose the so-called “wage theft” legislation, signed onto the coalition’s written testimony and participated in one of two of the coalition’s panels at the public hearing. In opposing the legislation, the coalition wrote, in part, that:

“Massachusetts presently has the most comprehensive wage laws and enforcement scheme in the nation. The vast majority of Massachusetts employers comply with these laws. This bill, in its current form, will unfairly punish legitimate and law-abiding companies in all industries across Massachusetts who contract with other businesses for services, but have no control over the operations of those independent businesses. If a company violates the current laws, the company in violation should be penalized through existing statutes and regulations which ensure fair and timely payment of wages. We strongly encourage the state to publicize information about businesses that misclassify workers and violate wage laws. It is essential that companies know who the bad actors are. In addition, we recommend increasing inter-agency co-operation and providing new or increased funding to the Council on the Underground Economy and to individual agencies to pursue and punish violators. We also suggest increasing workplace monitoring and the frequency of direct enforcement actions.”

It is widely anticipated that the wage theft legislation will also receive a favorable report from the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development. While the Committee has until the first week of February 2018 to consider legislation under Joint Rule 10, the two topic matter bills have historically been released early in the legislative session.

New Leadership Announced at Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development as Walker Elects to Return to Private Sector

The Baker-Polito Administration recently announced the departure of Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Ronald L. Walker, II, and introduced Ms. Rosalin Acosta, a financial and banking service professional with over thirty years of experience, as incoming Secretary, effective July 1.

According to a release from the Governor’s Office, Secretary Walker’s management, made many advancements in the development of the Commonwealth’s labor workforce, including a focus on addressing the workforce skills gap and investing in equipment and capacity building for training programs which included:

•Established the Workforce Skills Cabinet under the leadership of the Secretaries of Labor and Workforce Development, Housing and Economic Development and Education, and the task force to address Economic Opportunity for Populations Facing Chronically High Rates of Unemployment to develop recommendations and implement strategy for bridging the gap in employers’ demand for skilled workers and the training for residents to obtain successful careers, especially among chronically unemployed or underemployed populations.

•Established the Workforce Skills Capital Grant Program, which has awarded over $26 million to 67 different vocational schools, community colleges, and traditional public high schools to purchase vocational technical equipment and expand skills training programs for careers in growing industries.

•Developed and passed legislation establishing and streamlining the Massachusetts Workforce Development Board to meet federal requirements and advise the administration on improving the public workforce system and aligning policies to strengthen regional economies.

•Modernized the Department of Unemployment Assistance to help improve services for the unemployed, including bringing down wait times for assistance, significantly reducing the backlogs of claims, improving customer service, and catalyzing programs into federal compliance for the first time in 10 years.

•Created a new Regional Planning Initiative aimed at addressing the skills gap by bringing together regional teams of employers, educators, and workforce and economic development professionals to create a statewide blueprint for growth strategies across every region of the Commonwealth, and $2 million in support for 14 regional partnerships preparing unemployed or underemployed residents.

•Awarded over $37 million in Workforce Training Fund Program grants to advance the job skills of 28,934 of Massachusetts’ workers.

•Secured over $9 million in federal funding to increase apprenticeships in education and healthcare and improve job opportunities for women, minorities, lower-income populations, those with disabilities, and the unemployed.

New Secretary Rosalin Acosta recently stepped down as the Senior Vice President and Managing Director for Enterprise Wealth Management at Enterprise Bank in Lowell, where she oversaw the operations of the bank’s Wealth Management and Brokerage divisions since 2013. A widely respected financial and banking service professional with over thirty years of experience in Greater Boston financial institutions, Acosta has also worked in senior executive roles at TD Bank and Sovereign Bank (now Santander). Acosta serves in many community and civic capacities, including as a Board Member of The Boston Foundation, a Board Overseer at Boston Children’s Hospital since 2009, where she was a founding member of Milagros Para Ninos, and a 14-year Member of the Boston Chapter of the Association of Latino Professionals For America (ALPFA). Acosta is a Director and Planning Member of the Merrimack Valley Workforce Investment Board and was appointed a Northern Essex Community College Trustee by Governor Baker in 2016. Acosta has been named one of Boston’s Most Influential Women by the Women of Harvard Club in 2014, where she serves on the Leadership Committee, and El Planeta’s Top 100 Most Influential Hispanics in Massachusetts for three consecutive years.

Born in Cuba, Acosta earned a Bachelor of Arts from Wesleyan University in Connecticut where she was a member of the Women’s Varsity Ice Hockey Team. She is the proud mother of five children and an avid traveler, runner and cyclist.

Senate Passes Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

The Massachusetts Senate joined their House of Representatives colleagues by passing An Act Establishing the Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (Senate Bill 2093). The legislation requires that employers provide pregnant women reasonable accommodations including “more frequent or longer paid or unpaid breaks, time off to recover from childbirth with or without pay, acquisition or modification of equipment, seating, temporary transfer to a less strenuous or hazardous position, job restructuring, light duty, break time and private non-bathroom space for expressing breast milk, assistance with manual labor, or modified work schedules.”
While the House and Senate versions of the legislation differ slightly, there is little question that the legislation will eventually make its way to Governor Baker’s desk. Since opposition by business organizations last session, the advocacy group MotherWoman worked to address these concerns in developing consensus legislation that balances the needs of pregnant women with the practical issues faced by employers.

Again, among the provisions in the legislation, the employer and employee shall engage in a timely, good faith, and interactive process to determine effective reasonable accommodations to enable the employee to perform the essential functions of the employee’s job. An employer may require that the documentation about the need for reasonable accommodation come from an appropriate health care or rehabilitation professional. An employee shall not be required to obtain documentation from an appropriate health care or rehabilitation professional for the following accommodations: (1) more frequent restroom, food, and water breaks; (2) seating; and (3) limits on lifting over 20 pounds. Written notice of the right to be free from discrimination in relation to pregnancy and related conditions, including the right to reasonable accommodations for conditions related to pregnancy or related conditions, pursuant to this subsection shall be distributed in a handbook or other means.

To review the recently passed legislation, please visit: https://malegislature.gov/Bills/190/S2093

Lexington Carries Friedman to Victory over Garballey for 4th Middlesex District

Former Senator Ken Donnelly’s Chief of Staff, Cindy Friedman, won a tightly contested Democratic primary to fill the seat of the recently deceased Senator in the 4th Middlesex Senate District. Friedman earned slightly over 51 percent of the ballots in defeating State Representative Sean Garballey (D-Arlington) and Mary Ann Stewart of Lexington. With no Republican or Libertarian candidates on the ballot, Ms. Friedman will be able to claim the Senate seat once the July 25 general election occurs. As reported by the State House News Service, Ms. Friedman would be the first woman to be newly elected to the Senate since Sen. Barbara L’Italien in 2015, and the 41st female state senator in state history.

Ms. Friedman defeated her opponents by a count of 7,077 votes to 6,299 (Garballey) and 411 (Stewart). Representative Garballey won his and Ms. Friedman’s hometown with 56 percent of the vote, and also came out on top in Woburn. For her part, Ms. Friedman won Billerica and Burlington and achieved her widest margin in Lexington, where her 1,875 votes accounted for 81 percent of the Democratic ballots cast to 288 (Garballey) and 142 (Stewart).

According to published reports, 51 women — 39 representatives and 12 senators — now serve in the 200-seat state Legislature, making up just over a quarter of its membership. 30 of the female House members are Democrats and 9 are Republicans, accounting for roughly 26 percent of the 35-person House GOP caucus.

Representative Garballey will remain in the Massachusetts House of Representatives where he has championed a number of issues ranging from health insurance mandates to water infrastructure funding and the protection of vulnerable populations.