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Council employment law training takes members beyond the basics

A trio of attorneys from Hirsch Roberts Weinstein LLP walked about 20 Providers’ Council member executives and staff through current important changes to Massachusetts employment law on Tuesday, May 8 at Tempus Unlimited in Stoughton.

Jeffrey Hirsch, Peter Moser and Richard Loftus led the two-part Beyond the Basics program that included a quiz-show-style competition to gauge attendees’ knowledge and spark discussion on the issues of sexual harassment law, employee leave, reasonable accommodations, labor issues and wage and hour compliance. The lively and engaging format was followed by more in-depth discussion of these issues, especially changes to Massachusetts’ pay equity law that go into effect on July 1, reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers and how marijuana laws impact workplace policy.

Some highlights from the session include:

  • Employers with six or more employees are required to have a written sexual harassment policy, which should encourage reporting incidents of harassment and prohibit retaliation; the Mass. Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) offers a model policy for employers to use as a template;
  • Under the updated pay equity law, employers can’t offer some job candidates more money just because they’re desperate to fill a position. “There are only six permissible reasons for pay disparity and market forces is not one of them,” Hirsch noted.
  • Employers must provide reasonable accommodations for pregnancy and related conditions, but cannot demand employees take time off; the law does not require employers to pay for taking longer breaks during pregnancy or for employees’ time off to recover from child birth; and
  • Company drug policies may need to be updated to include reasonable accommodations for employees using medical marijuana (drug testing policies for example), but employers do not have to tolerate employees coming in under the influence or if using medical marijuana affects job performance. Employers are NOT required to afford accommodations for recreational pot.

Hirsch, Moser and Loftus all noted that employment law is frequently changing, making staying up to date on the issues key to compliance and helps avoid costly lawsuits and/or investigations.

“The employer has the right to control the workplace, and you should maintain that control,” Hirsch said.