Employment

Headline:

The MA unemployment rate is at 3.6 percent, just under the national unemployment rate of 3.7 percent.

Last-reviewed: 9am, Sept. 22, 2022

Key Resources:

Leave & Work Safety

The Basics:

  • MA employers can require employees to be vaccinated for COVID-19. In limited circumstances, employees can request a reasonable accommodation based on a disability or sincerely held religious belief.
  • MA workers may be eligible for paid and unpaid, job-protected leave for personal or family health needs and should contact their employer’s HR department for more information.
  • MA employers must follow OSHA standards to reduce the risk of COVID transmission.
  • Governor Baker signed the CROWN Act into law, banning discrimination based on natural and protective hairstyles in workplaces, school districts and school-related organizations.

The Breakdown:

  • On January 1, 2022,MA minimum wage increased to $14.25/hour. Service rates also increased to $6.15/hour.
  • The MA COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Leave law ended on March 15, 2022.
  • Both the MA Attorney General and the federal EEOC have made it clear that employers can require employees to be vaccinated for COVID-19.
  • Employees who are unable to get the vaccine due to a disability, sincerely held religious belief, or other protected reason can request a reasonable accommodation. If it is unreasonable for the employer to grant that accommodation, the employee may still lose their job. For additional information, view the EEOC Guidance
  • MA Unemployment is unavailable for employees who are separated from employment due to non-compliance with an employer vaccine policy. For more information, view the Employee Vaccine Mandate FAQ.
  • MA’s Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) program offers eligible employees paid leave for certain family and medical leaves, including caring for a family member with a serious health condition. Visit the PFML Help Center or view the PFML Employee Toolkit for information on the various types of leave available and the application process.
  • Employees who have worked at least 1,250 hours in the last year may also be eligible for unpaid leave through the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This leave protects their job while they are dealing with their own or a family member’s health issue. Visit mass.gov for additional information.
  • There are several ways to file a complaint to report an unsafe business or employer practice – through a local Board of Health; by contacting the Department of Labor Standards by phone, (508-616-0461 x9488), online, or by email (safepublicworkplacemailbox@mass.gov); or by contacting the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) by phone (800-321-6742) or online.

The Bottom Line:

  • MA employers can require employees to be vaccinated and they must meet a minimum standard of safety to prevent the spread of COVID-19. MA employees may be eligible for paid and unpaid leave through various programs and can report employer violations. 

Job Loss

The Basics:

  • Through UI Online, claimants can file an unemployment application, manage their UI claim, and request weekly benefits.
  • People who are unable to work due to a disability can apply for Social Security benefits through iClaim and then monitor their benefits through mySocialSecurity.
  • DUA is urging claimants not to respond to text message and email scams requesting that they enter their personal information on a site that looks like UI Online. Learn more here.

The Breakdown:

  • As a general matter, unemployment benefits are unavailable for employees who are discharged due to non-compliance with an employer vaccine policy.
  • Work search requirements for UI claimants are in effect. DUA has launched an online Re-Employment Center (REC). The REC is also open for in-person visits at the Boston office Monday-Friday from 8:30am to 4:30pm. Appointments must be scheduled online in advance. Visit this web site for lists of services that are and are not offered at the REC.
  • If someone refuses to work due to COVID-19 caregiving responsibilities and then applies for unemployment, DUA will look into whether they refused work that was suitable, and if so, whether they had good cause. Chapter 5 of the DUA Adjudication Handbook details what constitutes “suitable work” and “good cause.”
  • Workers who received UI benefits that they did not qualify for must repay the money unless they get a waiver. There are new waiver rules that make it easier to get a waiver. Workers can access up-to-date waiver information through the PUA website.
  • Termination of a worker’s employment based on national origin or race, age, gender, disability or the perception that one has a disability, is illegal. The MCAD has issued guidance on its COVID-19 processes and complaints can be filed, telephonically or electronically.
  • Scams involving identity theft used for fraudulent unemployment applications have led to increased demands on claimants to verify identity, and delays in application approval. DUA implemented ID.me, a federally certified identity verification provider, for existing UI claimants. The MA Attorney General issued an Advisory about what claimants impacted by fraud can do. The Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) provides similar warnings and instructions.

The Bottom Line:

  • Unemployment benefits are available for some employees who are out of work. Recipients should stay up to date on changing policies and program requirements.