Employment

Headline:

More workers are now eligible for overpayment waivers due to recent changes to the unemployment waiver rules.

Last-reviewed: 9am, June 23, 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 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.

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. For more details visit mass.gov.
  • 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 fired due to non-compliance with an employer vaccine policy. For more information, view the Employee Vaccine Mandate FAQ.
  • All industries are permitted to be open to full capacity and most COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted (with the exception of mask mandates in certain locations, including healthcare facilities, congregate care facilities, and emergency shelter programs).
  • 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. See 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.

The Breakdown:

  • MA Unemployment is unavailable for employees who are fired due to non-compliance with an employer vaccine policy. For more information, view the Employee Vaccine Mandate FAQ.
  • 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 that must be scheduled online in advance.
  • 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 MA 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.