January 9, 2017
Within the last year, Massachusetts enacted several new laws. Many of these laws went into effect on or before January 1, 2017, unless otherwise stated in this article. Some of these laws will impact business owners. This article will summarize some the recent law changes.
Increase in Minimum Wage – Massachusetts’ minimum hourly wage and service rate increased effective January 1st. The minimum hourly wage in Massachusetts increased from $10.00 per hour to $11.00 on January 1st. The service rate for tipped employees also increased to $3.75. Employers will need to change their hourly rate and review any wage and hour posters to update the notices to employees of the new hourly rates.
Public Records Law - Massachusetts amended its public record laws to provide stricter timetables for state agencies and municipalities for responding to public record requests. State agencies have 15 days and municipalities have 25 days to respond to such requests, but extensions may be granted for additional time with a showing of good cause for the delay. A judge may award reasonable attorney’s fees and costs in cases where an individual takes a public entity to court for failure to comply with the request.
Regulating Ride Sharing Services - A new law requires that ride sharing service drivers, like Uber and Lyft, submit to state criminal background checks and a review of sexual offender status. Additionally, this new law requires certain inspections of vehicles and a requirement that drivers obtain certain insurance coverage on the ride share vehicles. Drivers must place decals on their cars to identify them as ride sharing vehicles.
Marijuana Laws - Effective December 15, 2016, a new law allows Massachusetts residents 21 years of age or older to possess recreational marijuana in only certain amounts. The law contains certain restrictions on the locations where individuals may smoke and the amounts they may possess in public and in their home. Just prior to the end of the year, the legislature voted to a six month delay for the opening of marijuana shops from the original date of July 2018. The law also allows employers to enact policies regulating marijuana use in the workplace.
Transgender Anti-Discrimination and Public Accommodations - On October 1, 2016, Massachusetts law extended protection against discrimination for gender identity to any place of public accommodation. The law already provided protection against gender identity discrimination in matters related to housing, employment, public education and credit, and the new law extended this protection to public accommodations. This law prohibits discrimination against transgender individuals for their use of public accommodations, such as bathrooms and locker rooms, in correspondence with their gender identity. The Attorney General’s office has issued guidelines for businesses regarding compliance with this law.
Pay Equity Act – The Governor signed the Massachusetts Pay Equity Act into law in 2016 and it will go into effect on July 1, 2018. The Pay Equity Act strengthens fairness in hiring and wages by prohibiting discrimination by employers in their compensation practices on the basis of gender. This includes the payment of wages, benefits or other compensation. This law also prohibits employers from asking applicants about salary history before an offer of employment with compensation, and prohibits employers from preventing workers from disclosing or discussing their salary information with other co-workers.
This article only provided brief overview of the certain Massachusetts laws. Many of these new laws will impact businesses and their employees. Anyone with further questions on how these laws will impact their businesses should seek legal advice from a business attorney. Maureen Louise Pomeroy is a business and employment attorney in Amesbury, Massachusetts. For more information, please go to www.pomeroy-law.com.