Bob Shea Featured in Boston.com’s “Job Doc” Column

Bob Shea‘s advice to departing employees was featured in Boston.com’s “Ask the Job Doc” column.

In the column, Bob answers a question about whether an employee can quit and then use vacation days as part of the two-week notice period as follows:


I consulted Robert Shea, an experienced employment lawyer and partner at Beck Reed Riden LLP in Boston. Shea shares “It’s a maybe for the vacation time and a no for the sick time. Pay for accrued, unused vacation time is considered as ‘wages’ under Massachusetts state law and must be paid out when you leave the organization. If you prefer to use your accrued vacation during your 10-day notice period, you may be able to do so but your vacation time request presumably will be subject to your employer’s policy for approving vacation time requests. Most employers have a policy that vacation days must be pre-approved before they can be taken. Potentially, your employer may decide not to approve your vacation request because it wants you to be at work during the 10-day notice period to assist in transitioning your job responsibilities.”

With respect to earned sick time, this time is treated differently under Massachusetts law. Shea advises “Massachusetts employers are not required to pay out unused earned sick time at termination. Further, and in response to your specific question, earned sick time is to be used only for one or more of the purposes set forth in the law (e.g., to care for the employee’s physical or mental illness, injury, or medical condition) and using it simply to take time off during your 10-day notice period is not one those purposes.”

In short, earned sick time is not an entitlement and there are specific reasons, outlined in the Massachusetts law, which would enable an employee take this time off.


The column was written by Pattie Hunt Sinacole, CEO and Founder of First Beacon Group LLC.

Bob represents clients in all areas of labor and employment law. He focuses a significant portion of his practice on alternative dispute resolution.

Beck Reed Riden LLP is Boston’s innovative litigation boutique. Our lawyers have years of experience working with clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies to start-ups and individuals. We focus on business litigation and employment.

We are experienced litigators and counselors, helping our clients as business partners to resolve issues and develop strategies that best meet our clients’ legal and business needs – before, during, and after litigation. We’re ready to roll up our sleeves and help you. Read more about us, the types of matters we handle, and what we can do for you here.

Can – and Should – Employers Mandate COVID-19 Vaccines?

As the COVID-19 vaccines become more widely available, many employers are considering whether to mandate that their employees get vaccinated. The decision can be complicated. As they evaluate how best to proceed, employers need to understand their legal rights and obligations, and also to consider the practical consequences associated with any vaccination mandate.

Are employee vaccination mandates lawful?

Can employers lawfully require that employees get vaccinated? The answer is a qualified “yes.” Responding to employer uncertainty, on December 16, 2020 the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued a guidance addressing certain issues relating to the administration of COVID-19 vaccines to employees and the federal discrimination laws enforced by the EEOC. The EEOC guidance clarified that an employer generally can require that employees get vaccinated as a condition to returning to the workplace. An employer also can require that employees provide proof that they have been vaccinated.

owever, if an employee notifies an employer that the employee cannot get vaccinated due to a disability, under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) the employer cannot exclude the employee from the workplace unless the employer can show that the “unvaccinated employee would pose a direct threat due to a ‘significant risk of substantial harm to the health or safety of the individual or others that cannot be eliminated or reduced by reasonable accommodation.’”

  • This requires the employer to conduct an individualized assessment of: “the duration of the risk; the nature and severity of the potential harm; the likelihood that the potential harm will occur; and the imminence of the potential harm.”
  • Under current pandemic conditions, many employers will be able to show that such a direct threat exists. However, even if the employer can show that the unvaccinated employee would pose a direct threat, the employer must still engage in an ADA-required “interactive process” with the employee to determine whether it is possible to provide a “reasonable accommodation” to the employee (to enable the employee to work) without incurring an “undue hardship.”
  • A reasonable accommodation could potentially include permitting the employee to work in a more isolated area of the workplace, or to work remotely.

Similarly, if an employee notifies an employer that the employee cannot get vaccinated due to a sincerely held religious belief or practice, the employer must provide reasonable accommodations to the employee unless providing an accommodation would pose an undue hardship under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

  • In its guidance, the EEOC notes that courts have defined “undue hardship” under Title VII to include anything “having more than a de minimis cost or burden on the employer.” The EEOC cautions that employers should assume a request for religious accommodation is legitimate unless there is an objective basis to question the religious nature or sincerity of a religious belief, practice or observance.
  • Again, one form of reasonable accommodation that potentially could be required is to permit the employee to work (or continue to work) remotely. Given the widescale remote working occurring since the pandemic started, it may prove difficult for an employer to establish that permitting an employee to continue working remotely is unreasonable or poses an undue hardship on the employer.

Accordingly, if an employer mandates that employees be vaccinated and an employee refuses, the employer should determine the reason for employee’s refusal and, if the refusal is based upon an asserted disability or religious belief or practice, determine whether the refusal needs to be accommodated under the ADA or Title VII (and/or any corresponding state or local law). In addition, if any employees in the workplace are unionized, the employer should determine its collective bargaining obligations before implementing a vaccine mandate.

 Do employee vaccination mandates make sense?

ssuming an employer can lawfully mandate employee vaccinations, should the employer do so? The answer to this question will vary from employer to employer and will depend upon a variety of factors, such as whether vaccines are generally available to employees, whether employees work in close quarters and/or where social distancing is difficult, whether employees have close contact with customers or members of the public, and whether unvaccinated employees are likely to have contact with a health-compromised population. Thus, for example, health care and hospitality employers may have a more compelling reason to mandate vaccinations then agricultural employers whose employees may work outdoors and maintain social distance.

Employers also should consider that some employees may have a strong reluctance to being vaccinated (unrelated to any specific disability or religious belief or practice) and/or may object to being told by their employer that they must be vaccinated. Some individuals are fiercely anti-vaccine. Some pregnant women are concerned about the potential effects the newly developed vaccines may have on their pregnancies. Are employers prepared to terminate employees if they refuse to be vaccinated? Will drawing a hardline on mandating vaccinations lead to business operational issues and create employee morale problems?

There is precedent for vaccine mandates, of course. For years, many hospitals and health care companies have required flu vaccines and tuberculosis testing for employees. Schools generally require vaccines against measles, mumps and rubella. Notably, however, unlike these other vaccines, the COVID-19 vaccines are not yet approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration; they are currently only “authorized for emergency use” pending further studies. Thus, there is some possibility that employers could face liability for requiring COVID-19 vaccinations if employees experience significant adverse side effects.

Early surveys suggest that currently most employers are deciding not to mandate vaccinations. Many employers are choosing to encourage, not require, that employees be vaccinated. Some employers are choosing to require vaccinations only for certain positions, such as positions involving travel or in-person contact with the public. Of course, employer attitudes and approaches with respect to vaccine mandates may change as vaccines become more available, as further government guidance is provided, and/or as new medical information becomes available.

As an alternative to mandating vaccines, some employers are offering incentives for getting vaccinated, such as paid time off from work or gift cards. Although modest incentives are likely permissible, there is some uncertainty concerning whether providing benefits to employees who get vaccinated, while not providing such benefits to employees who do not get vaccinated due to their disabilities or religious beliefs or practice, might constitute unlawful discrimination. The EEOC has raised concerns in the past about what constitutes “voluntary participation” in an employer “wellness program” under the ADA and other discrimination laws. Consequently, on February 1, 2021, a broad coalition of over forty employer and industry organizations sent a letter to the Chair of the EEOC urging the EEOC “to issue guidance providing clarification on the extent to which employers may offer their employees incentives to vaccinate.” To date, no such guidance has been provided.

Proceed with Caution

Any decision to mandate employee vaccinations should be evaluated with careful consideration of both legal obligations and practical consequences. Substantial legal risks exist, and employers should consult with counsel before implementing any vaccine mandate policy as well as before taking any adverse action with respect to an employee who refuses to get vaccinated. Employers should also obtain legal advice before offering any significant benefits to employees as vaccination incentives. The COVID-19 pandemic has presented employers with many novel HR issues over the past twelve months. It continues to be critically important for employers to exercise sound judgment and proceed with caution.

Bob Shea is the author of this article. Bob represents clients in all areas of labor and employment law. He focuses a significant portion of his practice on alternative dispute resolution.

Beck Reed Riden LLP is Boston’s innovative litigation boutique. Our lawyers have years of experience working with clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies to start-ups and individuals. We focus on business litigation and employment.

We are experienced litigators and counselors, helping our clients as business partners to resolve issues and develop strategies that best meet our clients’ legal and business needs – before, during, and after litigation. We’re ready to roll up our sleeves and help you. Read more about us, the types of matters we handle, and what we can do for you here.

What Can Employers Expect from the Biden Administration?

When a Democratic Party President succeeds a Republican Party President (or vice versa) employers can expect a shift in federal employment law policy. The shift in policy plays out through new administration-supported legislation and Presidential executive orders, and, at the federal agency level, through new agency leadership, new regulations and interpretative guidance, and changes in enforcement priorities and initiatives.

This year, in the transfer of power from the Trump administration to the Biden administration, employers may see a more dramatic swing in employment law policy than seen in most changes in presidential administrations, and potentially even more than the swing seen with the change from President Obama to President Trump.

Here are some labor and employment law areas in which employers should expect to see significant changes:

OSHA/Workplace Safety

President Biden has been critical of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (“OSHA’s”) actions in maintaining workplace safety during the COVID-19 pandemic, including OSHA’s reliance on the “general duty” standard for enforcing employer obligations, and he has stated that he would demand more aggressive action.

True to his word, on January 21, 2021, his first full day in office, President Biden issued an executive order (“EO”) requiring OSHA, within two weeks, to consider whether an “emergency COVID-19 standard” is necessary to protect workplaces and to implement such a standard by no later than March 15, 2021. The EO also requires OSHA, within two weeks, to issue revised guidance to employers on workplace safety during the pandemic.

More broadly, the EO requires OSHA to review its current enforcement efforts and “identify any short-, medium-, and long-term changes that could be made to better protect workers and ensure equity in enforcement.” OSHA will be considering that employers complete more detailed OSHA 300 Logs on workplace injuries and illnesses. In general, employers should expect that OSHA under President Biden will taking a larger and more active role in workplace safety issues related to COVID-19 and beyond.

NLRA/Traditional Labor

Candidate Biden promised he would “be the most pro-union president you’ve ever seen.” Now, as President, he is immediately taking steps to fulfill that promise, including nominating Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, a former union leader, to be U.S. Secretary of Labor, naming a current Democrat Board Member to be Chair of the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB” or “Board”) and firing the NLRB’s employer-friendly General Counsel when he refused to resign. He will be filling an open slot on the NLRB’s five member Board with a Democrat and, in August, will be able fill another slot with a Democrat when a Republican Board Member’s term expires. By 2022, Democrats will likely hold three of the five spots on the Board.

he “Biden Board” likely will seek to bring back some of the pro-union measures taken by the Obama Board, including accelerated (often called “ambush”) election procedures and timetables that tended to make it easier for unions to win elections and rules that treated as unlawful some employer prohibitions on anti-employer statements on social media. The Biden Board may take steps to broaden union access to employees, to restrict employer anti-union campaign, and to undo the current joint-employer rule that has been an obstacle to union organizing.

The action that would have the greatest impact on the traditional labor landscape would be the passage of the Protecting the Right to Organize (“PRO”) Act, which contains a wish list of pro-union changes to the National Labor Relations Act. (“NLRA”). The PRO Act would, among many other things, create a private right of action for alleged NLRA violations similar to those available under federal employment discrimination statutes, and also provide for greatly enhanced penalties such as double or triple back pay awards, emotional distress damages, individual liability for officers and executives, and attorneys’ fee awards. While passage of this legislation would be the most impactful action, it is also the action least likely to occur because Democrats are unlikely to have enough votes (60) to overcome a Republican filibuster in the Senate.

Wage and Hour Law

President Biden has advocated for a substantial increase in the federal minimum wage – up to $15 by the year 2026. On January 22, 2021, he jump-started that effort by announcing that he was directing his administration to start the work that would allow him to issue an EO within his first 100 days in office requiring federal contractors to pay a $15 minimum hourly wage to workers. In addition, under Secretary of Labor Walsh (assuming he is confirmed, the first former union official to serve as Secretary of Labor in half a century), the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) will most certainly take a more pro-labor approach in its interpretation and enforcement of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and other wage and hour laws.

Under President Trump, the DOL scaled back significantly the Obama DOL’s overtime regulations and promulgated its own employer-friendly regulations establishing new tests for determining joint-employer and independent contractor status. The DOL now is likely to go in the other direction on these and other wage and hour issues. President Biden and the DOL may take steps to limit the use of mandatory arbitration and class action waivers for claims under federal wage and hour laws. Overall, employers should expect that the DOL will have a progressive pro-labor agenda.

Paid Leave

Candidate Biden advocated for legislation that would provide 12 weeks of paid leave for all workers for their own or a family member’s serious health condition. Upon taking office on January 20th President Biden issued the “American Rescue Plan” to address the COVID-19 pandemic and boost the U.S. economy. Among other things, the plan would extend the leave provisions under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act through September 2021 and expand the law to require employers to “provide over 14 weeks of paid sick and family and medical leave.”

On January 22, President Biden announced that he was directing his administration to start the work that would allow him to issue an EO within his first 100 days in office requiring federal contractors to provide “emergency paid leave” to workers. Although it is unclear what form of more broadly applicable paid leave law can make it through Congress, President Biden has made clear his intention to make federally-mandated paid leave a part of the workplace law landscape

Pay Equity

Candidate Biden stated that he supports a bill titled the “Paycheck Fairness Act.” The bill’s stated purpose is to address wage discrimination on the basis of sex and reduce the gender pay gap. It would, among other things, restrict the use of the “bona fide factor” defense to pay discrimination claims and increase civil penalties for violations of equal pay requirements. The Democrat-controlled House passed the bill in 2019 but the Republican-controlled Senate took no action on it. Now, President Biden’s election, combined with the Democrat victories in the Senate run-off elections in Georgia, increase the chances of the bill becoming law.

More generally, President Biden appears committed to addressing gender and racial pay inequities. On January 21, 2021, he appointed Charlotte Burrows as Chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Chair Burrows served as an Associate Deputy General in the Obama administration and most recently served as the Executive Director at the William Institute of the UCLA Law School, focusing on strategies to attain equality for sexual and gender minorities.

Immigration

President Biden intends to pursue a broad immigration reform agenda. He has proposed comprehensive legislation aimed at creating a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S., including individuals brought to the country as children (so-called “Dreamers”), eliminating green card quotas, reducing lengthy backlogs and improving efficiencies for work visa programs. On his first day in office, he issued a series of EOs that reversed Trump administration policies (1) restricting entry to the U.S. for people from certain Muslim-majority countries (the so-called “Muslim Ban”) and (2) ending work authorization for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) recipients.

Noncompetes

President-elect Biden has stated that he “will work with Congress to eliminate all non-compete agreements, except the very few that are absolutely necessary to protect a narrowly defined category of trade secrets, and outright ban all no-poaching agreements.” His position is premised, at least in part, on an assumption that for a large percentage of the American workforce noncompetes have restricted employees’ freedom to move to other jobs and earn higher pay. My colleague Russell Beck has written a detailed analysis of President Biden’s proposed noncompete ban, including protection strategies and steps for employers to take now. Russell’s analysis can be found here.

Every change in administration that includes a change from one party to the other results in significant policy changes and new legislative and administrative actions. In the dynamic and politically sensitive world of labor and employment law, these changes in policy and actions can be quite substantial. And, on top of that, this year we’ve had a change in administrations involving two leaders who hold fundamentally different views on what is best for employers and for employees, and what role government should play in setting and enforcing workplace laws. Consequently, employers should expect more changes at this time than they normally see every four or eight years.

Bob Shea is the author of this article. Bob represents clients in all areas of labor and employment law. He focuses a significant portion of his practice on alternative dispute resolution.

Beck Reed Riden LLP is Boston’s innovative litigation boutique. Our lawyers have years of experience working with clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies to start-ups and individuals. We focus on business litigation and employment.

We are experienced litigators and counselors, helping our clients as business partners to resolve issues and develop strategies that best meet our clients’ legal and business needs – before, during, and after litigation. We’re ready to roll up our sleeves and help you. Read more about us, the types of matters we handle, and what we can do for you here.

Beck Reed Riden LLP Attorneys Named Super Lawyers

Russell Beck, Stephen ReedStephen Riden, and Bob Shea have been recognized as Super Lawyers by the 2020 issue of Massachusetts Super Lawyers Magazine. In addition, Nicole Daly, Hannah Joseph, and Jillian Carson have been recognized as Rising Stars by the Magazine.

Super Lawyers Magazine has selected Russell Beck as one of the Top 10 Super Lawyers in Massachusetts for 2020.

Stephen Reed and Stephen Riden were selected as two of the Top 100 Super Lawyers in Massachusetts.

The title of Super Lawyer is given to 5% of the lawyers in the Commonwealth while the Rising Star designation recognizes 2.5% of lawyers under 40.  The Super Lawyers selection process is described in detail here.

Beck Reed Riden LLPis Boston’s innovative litigation boutique. Our lawyers have years of experience working with clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies to start-ups and individuals. We focus on business litigation and employment.

We are experienced litigators and counselors, helping our clients as business partners to resolve issues and develop strategies that best meet our clients’ legal and business needs – before, during, and after litigation. We’re ready to roll up our sleeves and help you. Read more about us, the types of matters we handle, and what we can do for you here.

Will Employers Always be Required to Permit Teleworking?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees when such accommodations are needed to permit employees to perform the “essential functions” of their jobs.

However, an employee who cannot perform the essential functions of a job, with or without an accommodation, is not considered to be a “qualified individual with a disability” under the ADA, and an employer generally is not required to provide an accommodation to the employee. In other words, an employer is not required to eliminate an essential job function to accommodate an employee with a disability.

Employers sometimes choose to excuse an employee from performing an essential job function (e.g., reporting to the workplace) for a period of time to accommodate the employee’s health needs.

When the time period during which the essential job function is excused becomes extended or indefinite, the employer runs the risk that the excused job function may no longer be considered an essential part of the job for purposes of analyzing rights and obligations under the ADA. As a result, the employer may be required to continue providing the accommodation.

his scenario is playing out throughout the country as employers begin asking employees who have been teleworking to return to the workplace. Some employees are reluctant to return because they have underlying health conditions which put them at increased risk of serious illness if they become infected with COVID-19. These health conditions, combined with extreme risks created by the pandemic, may mean that the employees have a disability under the ADA and are entitled to receive reasonable accommodation from their employer to permit them to perform the essential functions of their job.

If the ability to continue teleworking is the requested accommodation, employers must assess whether reporting to the workplace remains an essential job function, particularly if employees have been working remotely for several months.

EEOC Guidance

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) addresses this topic in its recently updated “Technical Assistance Questions and Answers” on issues involving COVID-19 and the ADA and other equal opportunity laws. Assuming an employer grants telework to employees for a period of time in response to COVID-19 and then reopens the workplace and recalls employees to the worksite, the EEOC posits the question: “does the employer automatically have to grant telework as a reasonable accommodation to every employee with a disability who requests to continue this arrangement”?

In an answer that will please employers, the EEOC states that, “[t]o the extent that an employer is permitting telework to employees because of COVID-19 and is choosing to excuse an employee from performing one or more essential functions, then the request – after the workplace reopens – to continue telework as a reasonable accommodation does not have to be granted if it requires continuing to excuse the employee from performing an essential function.”

Noting that “[t]he ADA never requires an employer to eliminate an essential function as an accommodation for an individual with a disability,” the EEOC elaborates by stating that “[t]he fact that an employer temporarily excused performance of one or more essential functions when it closed the workplace and enabled employees to telework for the purpose of protecting their safety from COVID-19, or otherwise chose to permit telework, does not mean that the employer permanently changed a job’s essential functions, that telework is always a feasible accommodation, or that it does not pose an undue hardship.”

An employer is not prohibited “from restoring all of an employee’s essential duties” when “it chooses to restore the prior work arrangement” and may evaluate “any requests for continued or new accommodations under the usual ADA rules.”

Employers, however, should understand that the remote work experience during the pandemic will be relevant when evaluating whether essential job functions can be performed through telework. According to the EEOC, the period of providing telework “could serve as a trial period that showed whether or not this employee with a disability could satisfactorily perform all essential functions while working remotely, and the employer should consider any new request [for accommodation] in light of this information.”

Thus, although allowing telework during the past several months does not mean that employers cannot restore report to the workplace requirements, it does mean that employers should consider a demonstrated ability to perform essential functions remotely when responding to requests to telework as an accommodation for a disability.

As always, employers should evaluate requests for accommodation on an individualized case-by-case basis, and an employer and an employee should engage in a “flexible, cooperative interactive process” to consider what, if any, accommodations might be needed to allow the employee to perform the essential functions of the job.

Bob Shea is the author of this article. Bob represents clients in all areas of labor and employment law. He focuses a significant portion of his practice on alternative dispute resolution.

Beck Reed Riden LLP is Boston’s innovative litigation boutique. Our lawyers have years of experience working with clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies to start-ups and individuals. We focus on business litigation and employment.

We are experienced litigators and counselors, helping our clients as business partners to resolve issues and develop strategies that best meet our clients’ legal and business needs – before, during, and after litigation. We’re ready to roll up our sleeves and help you. Read more about us, the types of matters we handle, and what we can do for you here.

Bob Shea to Speak About Returning High Risk Employees to Work

Bob Shea will appear on a panel of experts assembled by Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly titled “Legal Aspects of Returning High Risk Employees to Work.”

The free event will be held on Tuesday, September 15, at 10 a.m. ET on Zoom. More information and registration is available here.

Anyone who is unable to attend the live session should still register, as Lawyers Weekly will send a recording and the slides after the presentation.

The panel also features:

  • Robert Young, Esq., of Bowditch and Liam O’Connell, Esq., of Nutter

Panelists will cover a wide range of topics, including:

  • Determining who is considered high-risk
  • Addressing issues under the Americans with Disabilities Act and other anti-discrimination laws
  • Considerations in implementing options such as telework or revised duties that minimize contact with other employees/customers to address high-risk employee concerns
  • What to do if employees refuse to return to work
  • Best practices checklist

Bob represents clients in all areas of labor and employment law. He focuses a significant portion of his practice on alternative dispute resolution.

Beck Reed Riden LLP is Boston’s innovative litigation boutique. Our lawyers have years of experience working with clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies to start-ups and individuals. We focus on business litigation and employment.

We are experienced litigators and counselors, helping our clients as business partners to resolve issues and develop strategies that best meet our clients’ legal and business needs – before, during, and after litigation. We’re ready to roll up our sleeves and help you. Read more about us, the types of matters we handle, and what we can do for you here.

U.S. Department of Labor Issues Guidance on Tracking Hours of Employees Working Remotely

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a tremendous rise in the number of employees working remotely. Also, many employees are spending parts of their “normal workday” on non-work matters, such as tending to childcare responsibilities and, as the school year starts, supporting remote schooling and/or modified school schedules for their children, which is resulting in employees working irregular, non-scheduled hours. With so many employees not physically reporting to work, and many also working hours outside their pre-pandemic schedules, employers face increased challenges tracking the hours nonexempt employees work and ensuring those employees are paid properly.

response to these challenges, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently issued Field Assistance Bulletin (FAB) No. 2020-5, providing guidance on employers’ obligation to track the number of hours of compensable work performed by employees “who are teleworking or otherwise working remotely.” The FAB reaffirms the following employer obligations under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the DOL’s interpretive rules:

  • Employers must compensate their employers for all hours worked and work not requested but “suffered or permitted” is work time that must compensated.
  • Employers are required to “exercise [their] control” to ensure that work is not performed if employers do not want it to be performed.
  • Employers “bear the burden of preventing work when it is not desired.” The mere promulgation of a rule against performing unscheduled work is not sufficient; employers have “the power to enforce the rule and must make every effort to do so,” including through disciplinary action.
  • An employer’s obligation to compensate employees for hours worked applies when the employer has “actual notice” or “constructive notice” that the work was performed.
  • An employer has constructive notice if the employer “has reason to be believe work is being performed,” which can occur “if the employer should have acquired knowledge of such hours through reasonable diligence.”
  • However, an employer’s obligation to “make every effort” to prevent unwanted work being performed “is not boundless,” as “[t]he reasonable diligence standard asks what the employer should have known, not what ‘it could have known.’”

Importantly, the DOL states in the FAB that an employer generally may satisfy it obligation to exercise reasonable diligence to acquire knowledge regarding employees’ unscheduled hours of work by establishing a reasonable procedure for an employee to report unscheduled work time. If an employee then “fails to report unscheduled hours worked through such a procedure [and the employer is not otherwise notified of hours worked], the employer is generally not required to investigate further to uncover unreported hours.”

According to the DOL, when an employee “fails to follow reasonable reporting procedures [he or] she prevents the employer from knowing its obligation to compensate the employee.” Of course, “the employer cannot implicitly or overtly discourage or impede accurate reporting [of hours worked], and the employer must compensate employees for all reported hours of work.”

Key Takeaways

Although for the most part the FAB reaffirms existing law and the DOL’s interpretive rules, it nevertheless provides timely guidance to employers, including those who are now facing new or expanded challenges in managing employees working remotely. The key takeaways for employers are:

  1. Employers are required to pay employees for all hours worked when employers either know or should have known the work was performed.
  2. If an employer does not want its nonexempt employees to work outside their scheduled work hours (without prior management authorization), the employer should promulgate a rule prohibiting such work and be consistent in enforcing the rule, including through disciplinary action, when appropriate.
  3. Employers should communicate clearly to nonexempt employees that they are to record and report all hours worked, including non-scheduled hours, and should have a procedure for employees to do so. This policy and procedure can be part of an employer’s broader remote work policy and, again, should be consistently enforced.
  4. Employers should never withhold pay for hours worked, even when the work time is unauthorized or not properly reported. An employer that fails to pay nonexempt employees for hours the employer knew or should have known were worked faces the prospect of substantial liability, including a multiple of the unpaid wages under the FLSA and state wage laws, plus costs and attorneys’ fees.

Bob Shea is the author of this article. Bob represents clients in all areas of labor and employment law. He focuses a significant portion of his practice on alternative dispute resolution.

Beck Reed Riden LLP is Boston’s innovative litigation boutique. Our lawyers have years of experience working with clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies to start-ups and individuals. We focus on business litigation and employment.

We are experienced litigators and counselors, helping our clients as business partners to resolve issues and develop strategies that best meet our clients’ legal and business needs – before, during, and after litigation. We’re ready to roll up our sleeves and help you. Read more about us, the types of matters we handle, and what we can do for you here.

Beck Reed Riden LLP Attorneys Named to 2021 Best Lawyers in America List

Beck Reed Riden LLP is pleased to announce that five of its lawyers have been named to the 2021 Edition of Best Lawyers, and one of its lawyers was included in Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch.

Russell Beck, Stephen Reed, Stephen Riden, Nicole Daly, and Bob Shea were named to the 2021 Best Lawyers in America list in the following categories:

  • Russell Beck, Commercial Litigation, Employment Law – Management, and Litigation – Labor and Employment
  • Steve ReedCommercial Litigation, Employment Law – Management, and Litigation – Labor and Employment
  • Steve RidenCommercial Litigation
  • Nicole DalyEmployment Law – Management, and Litigation – Labor and Employment
  • Bob Shea, Employment Law – Management

In addition, Hannah Joseph was included in the inaugural edition of Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch in the areas of Commercial Litigation, Labor and Employment Law – Management, and Litigation – Intellectual Property.

Best Lawyers has published their list for over three decades. Its first international list was published in 2006 and since then has grown to provide lists in over 65 countries.

Best Lawyers Award BadgeLawyers on the Best Lawyers in America © list are divided by geographic region and practice areas. They are reviewed by their peers on the basis of professional expertise, and undergo an authentication process to make sure they are in current practice and in good standing. For the 2021 Edition of The Best Lawyers in America, 9.4 million votes were analyzed, which resulted in the inclusion of more than 67,000 lawyers, or approximately 5% of lawyers in private practice in the United States.

Beck Reed Riden LLP is Boston’s innovative litigation boutique. Our lawyers have years of experience working with clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies to start-ups and individuals. We focus on business litigation and employment. We are experienced litigators and counselors, helping our clients as business partners to resolve issues and develop strategies that best meet our clients’ legaland business needs – before, during, and after litigation. We’re ready to roll up our sleeves and help you. Read more about us, the types of matters we handle, and what we can do for you here.

Bob Shea to Moderate Panel on Massachusetts Wage Act

Bob Shea will moderate a panel at the Massachusetts Bar Association titled “Massachusetts Wage Act: Treble Your Knowledge.” Bob serves on the Massachusetts Bar Association Labor and Employment Section Council. The panel will be co-moderated by Michelle De Oliveira of Kenney & Sams.

The free event will be held on Monday, July 27, 2020, from 1 to 2:30 p.m. on Zoom. More information and registration is available here.

The panel features :

  • Richard S. Loftus, Esq., of Hirsch Roberts Weinstein LLP
  • Hillary Schwab, Esq., of Fair Work PC
  • Katherine Watkins, Esq., of the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office

This program will examine the interplay between federal and state wage and hour laws, as well as recent developments under the Massachusetts Wage Act, with a focus on:

  • Overview: Fair Labor Standards Act and Massachusetts Wage Act
  • What is a wage?
  • Commissions vs. bonuses
  • Treble damages — when are they triggered and to what do they apply?
  • Independent contractor issues
  • Joint employer issues
  • Attorney General’s Office’s enforcement priorities and initiatives
  • When the Attorney General’s Office pursues civil vs. criminal penalties

Bob represents clients in all areas of labor and employment law. He focuses a significant portion of his practice on alternative dispute resolution.

Beck Reed Riden LLP is Boston’s innovative litigation boutique. Our lawyers have years of experience working with clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies to start-ups and individuals. We focus on business litigation and employment. We are experienced litigators and counselors, helping our clients as business partners to resolve issues and develop strategies that best meet our clients’ legal and business needs – before, during, and after litigation. We’re ready to roll up our sleeves and help you. Read more about us, the types of matters we handle, and what we can do for you here.

Robert M. Shea Joins Beck Reed Riden LLP

Beck Reed Riden LLP is pleased to announce that Robert M. Shea has joined our firm as a Partner.

Bob represents clients in all areas of labor and employment law. He focuses a significant portion of his practice on alternative dispute resolution.

For more than thirty years, Bob has advised and counseled employers, executives, professionals and entrepreneurs on labor and employment law matters. He represents clients before federal and state courts and administrative agencies in cases involving claims of employment discrimination, harassment, retaliation, wrongful discharge, breach of employment/restrictive covenant agreements, worker misclassification, and wage-hour violations.

Bob also has extensive experience, both as an advocate and as a neutral, in alternative dispute resolution. As a neutral, he regularly serves as an arbitrator and a mediator, engaged by employers and employees to resolve disputes arising in the workplace, including claims involving contractual disputes under executive employment agreements, partnership agreements, change of control agreements, independent contractor agreements, and separation agreements. He also serves as an arbitrator or mediator in discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and wage and hour disputes.

Prior to joining Beck Reed Riden LLP, Bob was a shareholder in the law firm Ogletree Deakins.

“Bob brings a wealth of experience to the table. He is an outstanding attorney with long-standing expertise in employment law,” said Stephen Riden. “We are proud to have him as a key member of our team,” Riden added.

Beck Reed Riden LLP is Boston’s innovative litigation boutique. Our lawyers have years of experience working with clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies to start-ups and individuals. We focus on business litigation and employment. We are experienced litigators and counselors, helping our clients as business partners to resolve issues and develop strategies that best meet our clients’ legal and business needs – before, during, and after litigation. We’re ready to roll up our sleeves and help you. Read more about us, the types of matters we handle, and what we can do for you here.