A legislative bargain requires give-and-take from all stakeholders. On June 28, 2018, Massachusetts Governor Baker signed House Bill 4640, “An Act Relative to Minimum Wage, Paid Family Medical Leave, and the Sales Tax Holiday” (the “Act”). This “grand bargain” gradually raises the minimum wage, provides for paid family and medical leave, makes permanent the Commonwealth’s annual tax holiday, and phases out Sunday and holiday premium pay requirements. While Massachusetts employers must now adjust to an increased minimum wage and new paid family medical leave program, retailers with eight or more employees may see those costs mitigated by the gradual elimination of Sunday and holiday premium pay mandates.

Currently, Massachusetts retailers must provide premium pay of 1.5 times the regular hourly rate to non-exempt employees who work on Sundays or certain holidays designated by state law. The holidays covered by the premium pay laws are New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, and Veterans Day. The premium pay requirements do not apply to employees who are exempt from overtime pay mandates under Massachusetts law, specifically executive, administrative, and professional employees who earn more than $200 per week.

The Act will reduce, and ultimately remove, Massachusetts’ Blue Law premium pay requirement in accordance with the following schedule:

Effective Date Premium Pay Rate
January 1, 2019 One and four-tenths (1.4)
January 1, 2020 One and three-tenths (1.3)
January 1, 2021 One and two-tenths (1.2)
January 1, 2022 One and one-tenth (1.1)
January 1, 2023 No premium pay

Though covered employers will no longer be required to offer premium pay for Sunday and holiday work, the other provisions in the Blue Law remain unchanged. As such, retail employers may not require employees to work on Sundays or holidays, nor may employers discriminate or take adverse action against employees who refuse to work such shifts.

The phase out of premium pay is intended to provide relief for retailers; however, it also appears to create a subtle complication that may raise costs for Massachusetts retailers over the next four years. Under federal and state law, employers must pay non-exempt employees one-and-one-half premium pay for all hours worked over 40 in a week. Premium pay for work on Sundays and holidays may be creditable toward overtime compensation, but only if it is at least one-and-a-half times that employee’s “regular rate” of pay for the given workweek.

The “grand bargain” legislation thus reduces premium pay below this one-and-one-half-times threshold, such that it is no longer excluded from the overtime pay calculation, and therefore, the Massachusetts premium pay can no longer be used to satisfy the federal and state overtime pay requirements. As such, if an employee works more than 40 hours in the workweek, and some of those hours fall on a Sunday or qualified holiday, Massachusetts retailers may be required to provide the employee with both (1) the Sunday or holiday premium, and (2) overtime (above and beyond the premium pay already provided). To further complicate matters, the premium pay received for time worked on the Sunday or holiday will need to be incorporated into the employee’s regular rate of pay, which will affect the calculation of the employee’s overtime rate of pay. Note also that employees’ entitlement to decline Sunday/holiday work (and not be retaliated against) stays in effect as part of the grand bargain. It remains to be seen whether this fact, when considered along with the elimination of premium pay, will impact the number of employees willing to work on Sundays/holidays.

While state lawmakers may choose to revise the statute as it pertains to this complication, overall, the elimination of premium pay should still come as a welcome relief to many Massachusetts retailers, especially those directly competing with stores across the border in New Hampshire. Given that the first reduction in pay is set to take effect in a matter of months, covered employers should notify their employees about the reduction, ensure overtime calculations comply with federal and state laws, and confirm payroll systems are updated to reflect these changes.

This post was written with assistance from Eric I. Emanuelson, Jr., a 2018 Summer Associate at Epstein Becker Green.

Our colleague at Epstein Becker Green, has a post on the Wage and Hour Defense Blog that will be of interest to many of our readers in the retail industry: “Tenth Circuit Rules Tips Belong to the Employer If Tip Credit Is Not Taken.”

Following is an excerpt:

When an employer pays the minimum wage (or more) instead of taking the tip credit, who owns any tips – the employer or the employee? In Marlow v. The New Food Guy, Inc., No. 16-1134 (10th Cir. June 30, 2017), the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit held they belong to the employer, who presumably can then either keep them or distribute them in whole or part to employees as it sees fit. This directly conflicts with the Ninth Circuit’s decision last year in Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Ass’n v. Perez, 816 F.3d 1080, 1086-89 (9th Cir. 2016), pet for cert. filed, No. 16-920 (Jan. 19, 2017) and likely sets up a showdown this fall in the U.S. Supreme Court. …

Read the full post here.

By Nancy L. Gunzenhauser

Election Day 2014 proved to be a big win for employees who earn minimum wage.  Several states and cites approved measures to increase the minimum wage.  The city of Oakland, CA established its first ever minimum wage at $12.25/hour, which will go into effect on March 2, 2015.  Over the past few years, many states and cities have passed legislation that will increase minimum wage based on inflation rates, as tied to the Consumer Price Index.  While some states have not yet announced the new minimum wage, they may still see increases in the new year (e.g. Colorado).  Below is a chart with the minimum wage increases that are currently set to begin in 2015.

We may also soon see an increase in Illinois.  The state ballot had a nonbinding referendum question asking voters whether the minimum wage should be raised from $8.25/hour to $10/hour January 1, 2015.  Voters overwhelmingly voted “yes.”  Increase to the minimum wage, however, will require legislative approval.

Make sure to check back in a few weeks, and we’ll announce if any new minimum wage increases are set to hit your state or city.

*The minimum wage in Seattle will depend on the number of employees in the company and whether the company provides health benefits to its employees.

 

By: Anna A. Cohen and Nancy L. Gunzenhauser

It’s that time of year! As the new year rolls in, 13 states are increasing their minimum wage. Unless noted otherwise, all increases to the minimum wage reflected below will become effective on January 1, 2014.

State Current New*
Arizona $7.80 $7.90
California $8.00 $9.00 (effective 7/1/14)
Connecticut $8.25 $8.70
Florida $7.79 $7.93
Missouri $7.25 $7.50
Montana $7.80 $7.90
New Jersey $7.25 $8.25
New York $7.25 $8.00 (effective 12/31/13)
Ohio $7.85 $7.95
Oregon $8.95 $9.10
Rhode Island $7.75 $8.00
Vermont $8.60 $8.73
Washington $9.19 $9.32

Although the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013, introduced in March 2013, would raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour in three annual steps, the current federal minimum wage remains at $7.25 per hour.  Employers in states with minimum wage provisions that differ from the federal law must pay the higher of the two rates.

Employers operating in one of the 13 states increasing minimum wage in 2014 should ensure that their payroll is in compliance.

*Note: some states have also increased the minimum tip credit for eligible employees.