Published in the December 1, 2016 edition


WAKEFIELD — Employers who don’t pay attention to federal and state labor laws could end up spending tens of thousands of unnecessary dollars if they ever find themselves taken to court by a disgruntled employee.

“The 100 percent surefire way to eliminate an employee from suing the company they work for is to get a written contract that is both signed and dated that waives an employer from future lawsuits,” said Wakefield and Lynnfield Town Counsel and Chamber Co-President Thomas A. Mullen at an early morning meeting for business owners held Wednesday, Nov. 30 in lower level conference room at The Savings Bank.

“Labor laws are today’s hot topic,” Mullen told his audience of about 30 people. “There are some brand new challenges.”

Mullen said that employers can save themselves a lot of trouble if they not only follow labor laws but take a few steps to prevent problems later. One step is to provide an up-to-date employee handbook that details company policies. Another step is to document everything concerning the negative behavior of an employee and to keep the information in an employee’s personnel file, which would also include his or her name and address, date of birth, job title and description. Also included in the file should be rate of pay and other facts relating to compensation, starting date, job application and resume, performance evaluations, written discipline, probationary periods and waivers.

If an employer must place a negative review in an employee’s file, including reprimands, warnings and evaluations, it is incumbent upon the employer to notify the employee within 10 days. The employee is then given the opportunity to write a request to view his file and this allows him or her to do so within five business days during regular business hours.

Currently, Mullen said, employers spend thousands of dollars and hours researching topics related to an upcoming hearing when they should instead use their money, time and focus investing in their businesses.

“Business owners end up asking themselves how they got where they are and where did they go wrong,” he said. Following the steps and understanding labor law can eliminate the need to ask these questions.

One of the new challenges employers face is a law passed in 2015 concerning sick time. Mullen said that employers now must offer time off for illness. A company that has 50 or more employees whose primary place of employment is in Massachusetts must offer 40 hours of sick time (or unpaid for employers with fewer than 11 employees).