An Easter egg for Massachusetts employers

A “new change to [Massachusetts] law now requires companies to notify employees about any potentially negative information added to their files. The amendment, which Gov. Deval Patrick signed into law on August 5, was tucked away in an ‘economic development’ bill laden with higher-profile items like the recent sales-tax holiday. …. this new personnel-records rule is going to lead to more employee lawsuits.” [Gruntled Employees via Susan Cartier Liebel]


  • Is this habit of inserting unrealted items into bills unique to America? It is certainly a pernicious one. It means that if an employer, or his lawyer, wants to know his legal requirements vis-a-vis his staff, he must look at every wretched piece of legislation, not just the most obvious ones.

  • I’ll agree that slipping unrelated bills together is a poor practice to squelch open discussion and democratic participation.

    The concept of having HR discuss negatives with employees is good. If all files are closed then it is in the interest of HR to have a well padded negative file on every employee so that should a desire to fire arise that they have an air tight defense pre established, even if it has nothing to do with the real reason for firing. But that is no way to work with people, treating them all as fire-able litigants from day one. This need was created by the erosion of employment at will concepts.
    A healthy relationship, employer/employee, parent/child, teacher/student, would be to address each negative as it arises; no double-secret documentation and failing to mention areas of improvement at performance review.
    The only reason this might need be mandated by law is the the employer’s present desire to hide voluminous negative reviews is also effectively mandated by law.

  • Yes, this is something our nannies love to do to us. Sticking unrelated bits of legislation into a bill is common. Its how we get stuck with this crappy regulation.

  • I thought in many other countries there’s some sort of line-item veto that America generally lacks. In other nations a chief executive could veto the annoying unrelated riders but keep the rest of the bill. So, yes, this happens all the time in the US, but it’d probably happen all the time in other countries if they had to use the same rules.
    Then again, I may be completely wrong here, someone correct me if that’s so.

  • Define negative information. Is an entry that says “Joe meets expectations on X activity” negative because he didn’t exceed? Would this be considered negative because it takes Exceed ratings to earn bonuses but not merit raises?

  • Do Post-its count?

  • Tacking unrelated items onto legislation is a time-honored procedure. So time-honored that some states have enacted prohibitions against the practice (either in statutes or in constitutional amendments).

    Unfortunately, courts get to decide 1) what is a single subject, and 2) whether a violation of the rule results in the entire law being thrown out or just being amended by the court.