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Workplace Compliance Rules for New England States

Emily Hartman /

[Updated 12/5/20]

Below is a round-up of workplace compliance rules and regulations employers need to know to keep their business compliant. If you believe there may be a discrepancy between a state and local order that affects you or your business, you should contact your local government and/or competent local counsel for further advice.

Connecticut HR and Workplace Compliance Regulations

January 1: Payroll Deductions for Connecticut Paid Family and Medical Leave Act Start

Who: Connecticut employers

When: Effective January 1, 2021

What: To comply with Connecticut’s Paid Family and Medical Leave Act (PFMLA), employers must begin taking deductions from employees’ pay beginning January 1, 2021. The deduction, which will fund the leave taken under the Act, is capped at one half of one percent (0.5%) and applies to each employee’s wages up to the Social Security contribution base ($142,800 in 2021). No benefits will be paid to employees before January 1, 2022.

At least 30 days in advance, employers should give employees notice of the PFMLA program and the amount of deductions that will be taken out of employees’ pay.

How:

  • Notify employees of their rights under the program and how much will be taken out of their checks.
  • Work with HR staff, payroll staff, and/or your third-party payroll administrator to create the procedure by which you will take the deductions and remit payment to the taxing authority.

Additional Resources:

Connecticut Public Act No. 19-25—Paid Family and Medical Leave

Connecticut Paid Sick Leave Poster

Connecticut Paid Leave Guide for Employers

Connecticut Paid Leave Employer ToolkitConnecticut Paid Leave Website for Employers

February 9: Deadline Extended for Sexual Harassment Prevention Training

Who: Connecticut employers with three or more employees

When: Training deadline is February 9, 2021

What: Connecticut’s Time’s Up Act requires all Connecticut employers to complete sexual harassment training for supervisors, and for employees if the employer has three or more employees. With Executive Order 9L, the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities extended the deadline for sexual harassment prevention training from January 1, 2021, to February 9, 2021, due to COVID-19. Executive Order 9L amends Executive Order 7DDD. Employers do not need to request the extension—it is automatic.

How:

  • Provide the required training by February 9, 2021.
  • Post the Connecticut Sexual Harassment Is Illegal Poster.
  • Contact [email protected] if you have questions.

Additional Resources:

Connecticut Executive Order 9L

Connecticut’s Free Online Sexual Harassment Prevention Training Program

Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities

Connecticut Sexual Harassment Is Illegal Poster (English)

Connecticut Sexual Harassment Is Illegal Poster (Spanish)

Connecticut Sexual Harassment FAQs

Connecticut COVID-19 State Regulations

NEW 12/4/20: Unemployment Eligibility Expands

Who: Workers unemployed by the pandemic, who were previously disqualified from the financial benefit because they were receiving less than $100 in benefits

When: Retroactively effective for unemployment benefits between July 26, 2020 through September 5, 2020

What: Governor Ned Lamont signed an Executive Order 9P to temporarily expand eligibility for the federal Lost Wages Assistant (LWA) program to some of those who didn’t previously qualify effective as of December 4, 2020.

Claimants must certify they were unemployed because of the pandemic for the time period covered by the Lost Wages Assistance, between July 26 and September 5. If their Weekly Benefit Amount was less than $100 and their regular state unemployment benefits were not exhausted by July 26, 2020, their Weekly Benefit Amount will increase to $100, so they can apply for the federal LWA program.

The Order relieves employers from being charged for the additional funds.

Additional Resources:

Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) – Eligibility Expansion Program   

Executive Order 9P

Connecticut FAQs on COVID-19

Connecticut Governor News

Connecticut State Department of Health COVID 19

Connecticut Executive Orders

Face Coverings

Update 9/15/20: Executive Order No. 9B was issued to take effect from September 15, 2020 to November 9, 2020, announcing consequences to any violations of face covering mandates or gathering restrictions. A face covering mandate fine will be $100 fine, fines of $500 will be issued for organizing large events, and $250 fines will be issued for attending large events. Businesses are responsible for fines if an employee breaks a face covering mandate.

Update 8/19/20: Executive Order 7NNN overrides Executive Order 7BB and provides information on how to be exempt from the face mandate by obtaining medical documentation.

Governor Ned Lamont issued Executive Order No. 7BB, which requires all residents to wear cloth face coverings or face masks in public, whenever and wherever close contact is unavoidable, beginning April 20, 2020.

The Safe Workplace Rules for Essential Employers mandates that employees must wear face masks or cloth face coverings while at work, except when eating or drinking during a break. Employers are responsible for providing masks or cloth face coverings to employees. If employers can’t provide masks or face coverings to employees, they must provide the materials and the CDC tutorial so employees can create their own.

Where employees are in individual offices or cubicles, masks don’t need to be worn, but should be donned when moving around the office.

As Connecticut moves to reopen, additional industry-specific guidance has been issued by the state government to help employers restart their businesses safely. Restaurants, retail businesses, and personal care services, like hair salons and barbershops, require employees to wear a face mask.

Additional Resources

Safe Workplace Rules for Essential Employers

Connecticut Executive Orders

Sector Rules for May 20th Reopening

Department of Labor Releases COVID-19 Guidance

Who: Connecticut employers

When: Effective Immediately

What: The Connecticut Department of Labor published a COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions for employers and their workers. A summary of the important information includes:

Unemployment

  • Employees discharged from their jobs or who take unpaid time off from work because they have tested positive for COVID-19, may be able to claim unemployment benefits, as long as they meet all the requirements. Determinations will be made on a case-by-case basis.
  • Employees who aren’t sick but their employer required them to self-quarantine without pay, and employees who are temporarily laid off or furloughed may be able to collect unemployment benefits as long as they are able to work and look for work. Determinations will be made on a case-by-case basis.
  • Employees who take unpaid time off to care for an ill family member may apply for unemployment benefits, provided they are able to work and look for work. Determinations will be made on a case-by-case basis.
  • Employers are encouraged to take part in the SharedWork program to reduce full-time employees’ hours up to 60% while employees collect partial unemployment. The program is available to any employer with 2+ employees, the work reduction is between 10-60%, and isn’t the result of seasonal changes based on the employer’s business.
  • Employers may offer paid leave to employees who are asked to stay home.

Paid Sick Leave and Family Medical Leave

  • Per Connecticut’s Paid Sick Leave law, employers with 50+ workers must provide up to 40 hours of paid sick leave per year to service workers.
  • Employees are also able to use unpaid leave through the Family Medical Leave Act, which covers businesses with 50+ employees in a 75-mile radius and or the Connecticut Family Medical Leave Act, which covers employers with 75+ employees in the state. If a family member of an employee who may have or has tested positive for COVID-19, the employee can use protected FMLA, this wouldn’t be the case if the family member doesn’t show symptoms of COVID-19. Employers may request medical certification from the employee or the family member’s healthcare provider.

Wage and Hour

  • Exempt employees must continue to meet certain work duties and receive their salary, typically regardless of the number of hours worked in a week, as long as some work was performed.
  • Non-exempt employees are only paid for the time they work.
  • For example, if an employer shuts down the business for a day and tells employees not to work, it isn’t required to pay non-exempt employees. In this same scenario, if an exempt employee worked any part of the week of the closure, then they should be paid for the full workweek. Employers can’t make any deductions from exempt employees’ pay or time off benefits; Connecticut law protects employees when there isn’t any work because of the employer’s operating requirements.

How:

  • Continue to monitor federal and Connecticut regulations and review your pay and leave practices to ensure they’re compliant.
  • Consult with legal counsel to review changes you make to your practices to ensure they’re compliant.

Additional Resources

Connecticut Department of Labor FAQs

Maine HR and Workplace Compliance Regulations

January 1: Maine Releases Final Regulations for Implementing Earned Employee Leave

Who: Private Maine employers with 10 or more employees

When: Effective January 1, 2021

What: The Maine legislature signed LD 369—An Act Authorizing Earned Employee Leave—into law in May of 2019 and has just recently issued final regulations. Effective January 1, 2021, private employers with 10 or more employees must give employees who work at least 120 days for that employer in a calendar year one hour of paid leave per every 40 hours worked, up to a maximum of 40 hours per year.

Employees may begin taking the leave, for any reason, starting January 1, 2021, or after 120 days of employment, whichever is later. The rate of pay is the regular base rate of pay, including bonuses and commissions given immediately before taking the leave. Employees may carry over unused leave to the next year, but only up to the 40-hour maximum.

The law does not apply to seasonal workers, agricultural labor, certain commission-only employees, direct sellers, or hairdressers, or tattoo artists with booth rental agreements (unless they’re covered employees in terms of unemployment insurance). It also does not apply to employees who are subject to a collective bargaining agreement.

Employees are required to give reasonable notice to their employer that they plan to take the leave, except in cases of emergency. If taking leave will cause undue hardship for the employer, the employer has the right to place reasonable limits on the scheduling of the earned leave.

Where there is no guidance for specific situations, employers are instructed to follow their own established policies pertaining to other types of paid leave. Failure to comply with the law may result in fines of up to $1,000 per violation.

How:

  • Post the Maine Regulation of Employment Poster.
  • Analyze your current paid leave policies to ensure compliance with the new law. Update your HR Manual and employee-facing documents as necessary.

Additional Resources:

LD 369—An Act Authorizing Earned Employee Leave

Final Rules Governing Earned Paid Leave

State of Maine Department of Labor Earned Paid Leave

FAQs Related to Earned Paid Leave

Maine Regulation of Employment Poster

Maine COVID-19 State Regulations

UPDATE 12/11/20: Face Covering Mandate

Update 12/11/20: The Governor signed Executive Order 19 FY 20/21, effective immediately on December 11, 2020, mandating that owners of all indoor public spaces must not allow anyone to enter or remain on-site if the person refuses to wear a face covering, unless the individual(s) falls within the accepted exemptions.

Update 11/8/2020: Executive Order 16 FY 20/21 (November 4, 2020) was issued for Maine residents to wear face coverings in public, even if a social distance of 6 feet is maintained. All indoor public settings in Maine must post visible signs notifying all visitors, customers, employees to wear a face covering, and may deny service or entry if someone doesn’t wear one. Indoor gatherings are reduced to 50 people.

Under Executive Order 49 FY, Mainers are required to wear face coverings in public settings, except under certain circumstances.

Executive Order 55 FY was issued to require businesses to post signs for customers to wear face coverings and give them the ability to deny service to those customers that aren’t exempt from the face covering requirement.

Executive Order 2 FY 20/21 was issued, and effective July 8, 2020, to mandate face coverings for all retail locations with more than 50, 000 square feet, including bars, lodging, restaurants in the following Counties of Cumberland, Hancock, Knox, Lincoln, Sagadahoc, Waldo, and York, or in the Municipalities of Auburn, Augusta, Bangor, Brewer, and Lewiston.

Massachusetts HR and Workplace Compliance Regulations

January 1: Massachusetts Family Medical Leave Benefits Effective

Who: Massachusetts employers

When: Benefits available January 1, 2021

What: Starting on January 1, 2021, employees can use their Massachusetts Paid Family Medical Leave (PFML) benefits. Employers are to provide paid leave for employees who have a health crisis, need to bond with a child, or must care for a sick family member, as follows:

  • Up to 20 weeks for a serious medical condition
  • Up to 12 weeks to bond with a child after birth, adoption, or foster care placement
  • Up to 12 weeks for an emergency related to a family member on active duty
  • Up to 26 weeks to care for a family member who is also covered by the PFML

Employers must provide employees with a notice of their rights under the law.

How:

  • Ensure your organization’s compliance by gaining a full understanding of PFML benefits.
  • Take the necessary steps to participate in the state-administered PFML plan or opt-out by applying for an exemption you have a private plan that is equal to the state’s PFML plan.
  • Inform your employees about PFML by posting the Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave Poster and providing a written notice requirement outlined in M.G.L.C 175M sec. 4.

Additional Resources:

Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave Poster

Workforce Notifications

Massachusetts Certification of Serious Health Condition Form

Frequently Asked Questions: Paid Family and Medical Leave

Employer’s Guide to Paid Family and Medical Leave

M.G.L. c. 175M sec. 4.

Employer Paid Family and Medical Leave Toolkit

Massachusetts COVID-19 State Regulations

Face Coverings Mandated

Update 11/2/20: COVID-19 Order No. 55 was issued to rescind and replace COVID-19 Order No. 31. Effective November 6, 2020, residents are required face coverings in all public places, regardless of indoors or outdoors and if social distance can be maintained.

Beginning May 6, 2020, state residents must wear a cloth face-covering in public, on public transportation, and ride-sharing.

All customers and employees that are open to the public must wear a mask or face covering.

Local jurisdictions may have other requirements that should be adhered to.

Additional Resources

COVID-19 Order No. 31

Wear A Mask in Public

Massachusetts COVID-19 Emergency Orders and Guidance

Unemployment Benefits Expansion

Governor Charlie Baker signed legislation, S 2934, on October 26, 2020, to expand unemployment benefits to state residents that originally didn’t qualify for the Lost Wages Assistance Program which provided $300 in weekly federal benefits.

Originally, in order to receive the federal benefits, the claimant had to be receiving at least $100 in weekly state benefits. The new law increases the minimum state benefit for any unemployment insurance claimant to $100, expanding the number of people who qualify for the Lost Wages Assistance Program. The bill works retroactively and covers the week ending August 1 through the week ending September 5, 2020.

Additional Resources

S 2934

Massachusetts COVID-19 Updates and Information

Massachusetts Department of Public Health

Massachusetts COVID-19 Emergency Orders

UPDATE: Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance Announces Guidance On CARES Act Implementation 

COVID-19 and Unemployment: What you need to know

Liability Protection for Health Care Workers

Governor Charlie Baker signed bill 2640 into law to provide liability protection for health care workers, health care facilities, and health care volunteer organizations during the COVID-19 state of emergency. The law applies retroactively to claims from March 10, 2020, until the emergency declaration is rescinded.

Health care providers and facilities will be protected from any liability or lawsuits for any resulting damage while receiving care during the COVID-19 emergency as long as the following circumstances are met:

  • The health care provider or facility is coordinating or providing care that falls under the COVID-19 emergency rule and in accordance with other applicable laws,
  • The care or coordination was impacted by the provider’s or facilities response to the COVID-19 outbreak or emergency rules, and
  • The care or services were being provided in “good faith” and without intent to harm or discriminate based on a protected class.

Additional Resources

House Bill 2640

Unemployment & Sick Leave Provisions

Who: Massachusetts employers and employees

When: March 17, 2020 through April 6, 2020 (Updated to May 4, 2020, please see the COVID-19 Order No. 21)

What:

Massachusetts has expanded unemployment provisions to make benefits more accessible:

If an employee is quarantined and leaves their job due to reasonable risk of exposure to COVID-19, or to care for a family member, and doesn’t intend to work or return to work, they qualify for unemployment benefits.

New claims will be paid faster, temporarily eliminating the one-week waiting period for benefits.

Workers may collect unemployment if their employer has shut down and expects to reopen in 4 weeks or fewer.

Additionally, the Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) has enacted emergency regulations to help support workers impacted by COVID-19:

Creation of a “standby” category for people who are temporarily unemployed because of a lack of work that resulted from COVID-19. These individuals have an expected return-to-work date.

Individuals on standby must take measures to remain in contact with their employers during the shutdown and be available for any work their employer may have.

Employers will be responsible for verifying the return-to-work date with the DUA. If they fail to do so, the person’s standby status will be set for 4 weeks. A max of 8 weeks may be set by the employer.

Employers experiencing a significant impact on their business due to COVID-19, may request an extension of up to 60 days to file reports, pay contributions, or make certain payments.

DUA will excuse missed filing deadlines due to the effect of COVID-19 if the employer can demonstrate the impact.

Massachusetts Earned Sick Time Law also now accommodates employees who have been required to stay home because they or their family member has been exposed to COVID-19. Employers must allow employees to use earned sick time in these situations and to allow for liberal use of sick time or other paid time off if an employee isn’t comfortable carrying out a work assignment because of COVID-19. If an employee is facing a temporary layoff or partial unemployment because of reduced hours, they aren’t required to use their sick time before applying for unemployment.

How:

When you’ve developed a plan to respond to the new regulations, consult with your legal counsel to ensure it’s compliant with the state rules.

Build a communication strategy to implement these changes in your workforce.

As necessary, be sure to review your unemployment practices and assess how you may need to incorporate some of the new guidance provided by the DUA.

Communicate with your employees about the use of earned sick time and some of the additional support being provided during COVID-19.

Provide support to your employees during this time and make yourself available to answer their questions and concerns.

Additional Resources

COVID-19 Order No. 21

Massachusetts FAQs About COVID-19: Employee Rights and Employer Obligations

New Hampshire COVID-19 State Regulations

UPDATED 11/20/20: Face Covering Mandate

Update 11/20/20: The Governor issued Emergency Order 74, effective from November 19, 2020, to January 15, 2021, mandating face coverings in public indoor and outdoor spaces wherever social distancing can’t be maintained. Exemptions can be found on page 3 of the Order.

Emergency Order #63 was issued on August 11, 2020, effective immediately, requiring residents wear a face covering when in all gatherings of 100 or more. Page 2 of the Emergency Order #63 lists exemptions to the rule.

Rhode Island COVID-19 State Regulations

UPDATED 11/8/20: Cloth Face Coverings Required for Employees

Update 11/8/2020: Executive Order 20-94 Eighty Ninth Continuing to Require Cloth Face Coverings in Public (November 5, 2020) is effective from November 6, 2020, to December 5, 2020. Under the Order, everyone must wear a face covering when indoors and outdoors including businesses like grocery stores, retail, transportation or ridesharing services, and restaurants. Exemptions to the Order can be found on page 2.

When: April 18, 2020 through at least May 18, 2020 (Update 6/5/20: Executive Order 2020-41 has been issued to extend the face covering mandate to July 4, 2020.

Executive Order 20-24 mandates that employees who work in customer-facing roles, in an office-setting must, or as determined by the Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation, must wear a cloth face covering. The exception is if the employees can easily maintain at least 6 feet of distance from coworkers and customers.

Businesses must provide face coverings or the materials to make cloth face coverings to their employees. Employees may make their own face masks as well.

Additional Resources

CDC Face Mask Guidance

Rhode Island Department of Health

Rhode Island Executive Orders

Unemployment Rules Updated

Who: Rhode Island employers and employees

When: Effective March 25, 2020

What: For employees affected by business closures caused as a result of COVID-19, Governor Gina Raimondo and the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training (RIDLT) have changed the rules for obtaining unemployment benefits as follows:

  • Waiver of the seven-day waiting period to file an unemployment insurance claim related to COVID-19;
  • Waiver of the seven-day minimum amount of time that claimants must be out of work to qualify for Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) or Temporary Caregiver Insurance (TCI) benefits for COVID-19 related claims; and
  • Waiver of the required medical certification for individuals under quarantine; instead, individuals may temporarily qualify via self-attestation that they were under quarantine due to COVID-19.

Employees who are sick with COVID-19 may be eligible for TDI benefits. Employees who are absent from work to care for a child due to school or daycare closings may be eligible for TCI benefits. All applicants should apply for benefits immediately online. The RIDLT will evaluate claims as quickly as possible and work with employees to determine their eligibility for different unemployment benefits.

Business owners who have temporarily ceased or limited operations due to COVID-19 may be eligible for Unemployment Insurance, Paid Sick and Safe Leave, or other programs. Business owners who face slowdowns due to COVID-19 may be able to participate in the WorkShare program, which partially replaces workers’ wages with unemployment benefits as an alternative to layoffs. Employers who participate in this program are subject to certain restrictions, such as continuing to provide the same fringe benefits to participating employees or reducing all employees’ benefits by the same amount.

How:

  • Advise current and laid-off employees of their potential COVID-19–related unemployment benefits through RIDLT.
  • Employers that temporarily close or limit your operations due to COVID-19 may request assistance by emailing [email protected] or calling (401) 462-2020.
  • Employers facing slowdowns due to COVID-19 may apply for Rhode Island’s WorkShare program.

Additional Resources

COVID 19 Workplace Fact Sheet

Rhode Island Unemployment Insurance Program

Rhode Island WorkShare Program

Vermont COVID-19 State Regulations

Frontline Employee Hazard Pay Program Expands

Governor Phil Scott announced a second round of the Frontline Employees Hazard Pay Grant Program that now includes former employees of eligible employers who worked from March 13, 2020, through May 15, 2020.

Eligible employers who assisted in the operations of services included, but are not limited to, assisted living, residential facilities, a nursing home, residential care, therapeutic communities, health care facilities, dental facilities, homeless shelters, home health agencies, morgues, ambulance services, or first responder services, and cleaning or janitorial services for health facilities. A full list can be found starting on page 3 of the Grant Program Guidance.

The application portal opened on October 28, 2020. Grants will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis until the Program funds are gone.

Additional Resources

Governor Phil Scott’s Announces Expansion of Frontline Employee Hazard Pay Grant Program Press Release

Frontline Employees Hazard Pay Grant Program Guidance

Frontline Employees Hazard Pay Grant Program webpage

October 26, 2020, Informational Webinar Recording

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