The Name GameAfter you have developed a product, it is important that you take into consideration the following points when determining the product name:

Don’t rush the process. Take some time to develop the right name. If you don’t love it, don’t use it. Think about the potential name from the consumers’ perspective. Also consider whether it bears any similarity to that of an existing product.

Consider calling in the professionals. There are many excellent branding companies that can assist you with developing a product strategy and help you come up with a catchy or clever name, logo and/or slogan. You may also want to consider engaging a trademark attorney for the purpose of making sure the proposed name is not already subject to trademark protection. The trademark attorney will search the name and make a determination as to whether it may potentially infringe upon existing trademark rights. The trademark attorney will also be able to assist you with determining the likelihood the product name will pass the scrutiny of the United States Patent and Trademark Office. You should not rely on a Google search. If you miss something and your product name infringes upon someone else’s trademark, you may find yourself in a lawsuit.

Come up with several alternative names. It is not uncommon for an inventor to have his or her heart set on a particular product name, only to find out from the trademark attorney that it is already being used in connection with a similar product. Even if you are really certain your product name is unique, you should have 1 or 2 back-up names in mind in case the preferred name cannot be used for any reason.

Wait for the all-clear. Sometimes, an inventor is so eager to market the new product that he or she purchases a domain name, invests in marketing materials, and even forms a business entity prior to performing any research on the product name or engaging a professional to assist with the search process. This is a mistake that may be costly in two ways: (1) You may need to hire an attorney to answer a cease-and-desist letter from someone already using the mark; and (2) If the other party prevails, you will need to re-brand your product and pay for a whole new set of marketing materials, a new domain registration, and/or the corporate filings necessary to formally change your business’s name.

As your product name has only one chance to make that first impression, it is better to do it once and do it right.

Prevailing Wage2017The Massachusetts Prevailing Wage Law (“Prevailing Wage Law”) for public works projects establishes the minimum wage rates that must be paid to laborers on various public projects. Public construction projects can include, among other things, additions and alterations to public buildings and demolition tasks.

Generally, the Prevailing Wage Law applies to all public agencies, such as cities, towns, and counties. For purposes of the Prevailing Wage Law, the public agency requiring assistance with a public works project is often referred to as the “awarding authority.” Whether you are a general contractor, subcontractor, or employee performing services related to a public construction project, it is important to understand some basic information about the Prevailing Wage Law and how it may affect you.

Before an awarding authority seeks bids for a public construction project, the awarding authority must obtain a schedule of the prevailing wage rate for the project from the Department of Labor Standards (“DLS”), i.e., the minimum wage rate that must be paid to workers on the project. The DLS must then provide a copy of the prevailing wage schedule to the contractors from whom bids are sought. If the project does not require bids, then the awarding authority must provide a copy of the prevailing wage rate sheet to the potential contractor(s), which will become part of the contract for that project. This allows contractors to factor the prevailing wage rate for the project into their respective bids, e.g., because the prevailing wage rate for a project may be higher than a contractor’s employees’ normal rate(s).

Once a contractor is awarded a public works project, then the contractor should take steps necessary to ensure compliance with the Prevailing Wage Law including, but not limited to, making sure that employees are paid the proper wages. Importantly, the Prevailing Wage Act covers the employees of general contractors and subcontractors, regardless of whether such employees are unionized or non-unionized.

The contractor is also required to post the prevailing wage schedule in a visible location at the jobsite for the duration of the project. This allows covered employees to understand how much they should be paid for that project. In addition to making sure that all covered laborers are paid the proper prevailing wage rate, a contractor should ensure that all eligible employees are paid overtime for hours worked over 40 in a workweek.

In addition, contractors should be aware about various limitations to the deductions that they can take from an employee’s hourly rate on such projects. An employer’s payments to health and welfare, pension, and certain unemployment benefit plans pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement, for example, are supposed to be included in the prevailing wage rate and thus cannot be deducted by an employer to lower the prevailing wage rate. Generally, only an employer’s contributions to a bonafide health and welfare, pension, or supplemental unemployment plan, may be deducted from the wage rate so as to lower the prevailing wage law and remain compliant with the Prevailing Wage Law.

Contractors are also required to submit weekly payroll report forms and required statements of compliance to the awarding authority. Importantly, failure to comply with the Prevailing Wage Law may result in civil or criminal penalties and/or sanctions under Massachusetts law. For specific questions about whether and how the Prevailing Wage Law applies to your situation, please consider contacting an attorney at the Harbor Law Group to discuss your case.

Salary Exempt Aug2016On May 18, 2016 the Department of Labor updated the salary requirements for the executive, administrative, and professional overtime exemptions under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). The new rule, which goes into effect on December 1, 2016, raises the administrative exemption from $455 per week to $913 per week. Thus for executive, administrative, or professional employees to properly be classified as exempt from overtime, they need to be earning a minimum of $913 each week (which amounts to about $47,476 per year). In addition to this increase, the Department of Labor’s new rule also establishes a mechanism to automatically update the salary and compensation levels every three years. This new rule is set to impact approximately 4.2 million workers in the United States who are currently considered exempt from overtime pay.

In light of its anticipated impact, how should businesses prepare for the implementation of the new rule? As a starting point, employers have until December 1, 2016 to become compliant with the new overtime law. Employers have several options available to them. Employers can choose to pay its executive, professional, or administrative employees on an hourly basis and pay time-and-a-half for the hours worked over 40. Alternatively, employers can raise salaries above the new $913 threshold. As another option, instead of raising the salary or paying overtime, employers can limit hours worked to 40 hours each week. As a practical point, employers who choose not to raise the salaries of their workers should strongly consider having employees account for the hours worked each week.

It is important for employers and businesses to be aware that other than raising the minimum salary amount required for exemption from overtime, the Department of Labor’s new rule does not alter the tests to determine if employees are properly classified as exempt from overtime. Not every employee who is compensated at least $913 per week is exempt from overtime. Employers should be careful to review the job descriptions and duties for their salaried workers to make sure that in addition to meeting the new salary threshold, they satisfy the tests for overtime exemption under the FLSA.

Employers in Massachusetts should be aware that if employees are improperly classified as exempt and/or are not compensated for overtime, they may be subjected to treble damages under the Massachusetts wage and hour laws.

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