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May 13, 2019

Massachusetts Paid Family Medical Leave Law: Employer Notification Obligations

As explained in our recent legal alerts Massachusetts Paid Family Medical Leave: Coming Soon and Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave Law: Key Dates for Employers, Massachusetts will soon offer one of the most generous and comprehensive family and medical leave programs in the country. This alert will update you on three key notice requirements and deadlines.

In particular, beginning in January 2021, most workers in Massachusetts will be eligible to receive up to 12 weeks of paid family leave and up to 20 weeks of paid medical leave. The program will be funded by premiums paid by employees, employers, and the self-employed. Contributions to the program will begin on July 1, 2019, and will be managed through the Department of Family and Medical Leave (DFML).

Employers are required to notify their workforce about the Paid Family Medical Leave (PFML) program, including the benefits and protections that apply to the employees and, in some instances, 1099-MISC contractors. There are three notification requirements.

  1. By July 1, 2019, employers must post in a conspicuous location on each of their premises a workplace notice describing the benefits available under the law. A workplace poster explaining the benefits is available on the DFML website. The poster must be available in English and each language that is the primary language of five or more employees or self-employed individuals of that workplace, if such translations are available from the department. Various translations are available on the DFML website.
  2. Employers must provide each employee, within 30 days of hire, a written explanation of the employee’s rights. The notice, which may be provided electronically, must include the opportunity for an employee or self-employed individual to acknowledge receipt or decline to acknowledge receipt of the information. The DFML website has a template of the notice provided by DFML and has information about what is required to be in the notice for employers who choose to create their own notice.
  3. Employers must also provide notice of the PFML program to their current workforces. The deadline for employers to provide notice to existing employees has been extended by the DFML from May 31, 2019, to June 30, 2019. As with the notice required to be provided to new hires, the notice to current employees may be provided electronically, and employers must collect signed acknowledgments of receipt of the notice or refusals to sign from employees and, in some instances, from 1099-MISC contractors. According to the department’s website, “[i]n the event that an employee or self-employed individual fails to acknowledge receipt, the Department shall consider an Employer or Covered Business entity to have fulfilled its notice obligation if it can establish that it provided to each member of its current workforce notice and the opportunity to acknowledge or decline to acknowledge receipt.”

Failure to provide the required notifications may result in fines ($50 per employee or 1099-MISC contractor for the first violation, and $300 per employee or 1099-MISC contractor for subsequent violations).

The deadlines for employers to provide employees and, in some instances, 1099-MISC contractors with notification of the PFML law are fast approaching. Employers should begin planning now for the new law, including making necessary changes to onboarding processes or employee handbooks to include the required notice.

If you have any questions regarding the content of this alert, please contact Carolyn Marcotte, counsel, at cmarcotte@barclaydamon.com or Brian Whiteley, partner, at bwhiteley@barclaydamon.com, or another member of the firm’s Labor & Employment Practice Area.

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