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Board Says Baker Admin Made Unlawful Paycheck Deductions

A union representing more than 22,000 state workers won a case this week against the Baker administration involving the paid family and medical leave law that could require the state to repay employees as much as $30 million in benefit contributions that were improperly deducted from paychecks.

The Commonwealth Employment Relations Board ruled on Tuesday that the administration violated the collective bargaining rights of members of the National Association of Government Employees when in October 2019 it began deducting the maximum allowable 0.5% contribution from their paychecks to pay for the new leave program.

The administration, according to documents, argued that it tried to bargain in good faith over the amount of the contribution but was at an impasse with the union and faced a legal deadline when it unilaterally implemented the deductions.

The board ordered the administration in its decision to return to the bargaining table and to "make whole bargaining unit members for any economic losses they may have suffered as a result of the Commonwealth's unlawful conduct."

NAGE officials estimate the amount of PFML contributions made by their members since Oct. 1, 2019 at $30 million, including interest.

"NAGE believes that the Baker Administration should do the right thing and implement CERB's unanimous decision for ALL state employees who were affected by their implementation of the PFML tax, regardless of bargaining with the Union," said NAGE National President David Holway. "We implore Baker to not appeal this decision, and fairly compensate the employees who were unfairly taxed."

The Baker administration could not immediately be reached for comment.

Paid family and medical leave, under the law, was funded by a 0.75% payroll tax. Paycheck deductions for workers vary by employers, but employees can be required to contribute up to 40% of their total medical leave contribution and up to 100% of their total family leave contribution.

Benefits to care for a new child or sick service member or to manage a health issue become available on Jan. 1, 2021, while paid leave to care for ill family members will become available on July 1, 2021.

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