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I work at a firm in Massachusetts (USA) which was acquired in 2012 by a firm in Ohio. I came on board after the acquisition.

Am I covered by Massachusetts labor law or Ohio?

The particular situation: The firm has a policy in its employee handbook which appears to indicate that if I leave the company, any unused paid time off will be forfeited. Whereas the Massachusetts labor department or perhaps attorney general has a regulation or statement that employers must pay out unused PTO if an employee leaves. I'm not sure if it applies if my firm is headquarted in Ohio.

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If you are employed at an office in Massachusetts, you are covered by Massachusetts labor law. When an Ohio company wants to operate in Massachusetts, it cannot just come in and unilaterally decide to use the labor law of another state.

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Choice of law is a complicated question that requires a lawyer for the specific situation. The starting point is the state where you file the case. That state will have choice of law rules that may or may not apply the substantive law of its own state.

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    An Ohio court is very unlikely to entertain a claim under Massachusetts law. Any claim would be filed in Massachusetts. It's not complicated in the least. – phoog Nov 18 '15 at 15:28
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    Sure, they can and they might, but in this case I find it highly unlikely that they would. The employer operates in MA. The employee is a citizen of MA. The employment tasks place in MA. The law in question is an MA law. Besides, what MA labor lawyer would decide to sue in Ohio? It just doesn't make sense. – phoog Nov 18 '15 at 15:56
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    Anyway, the question is what law applies, not where to sue. It is certainly true that an Ohio court would not apply Ohio law to this case, and neither would a Massachusetts court. – phoog Nov 18 '15 at 16:02
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    @user1071847 that's my definite understanding. I work for a multinational that employs people in many US states. The legal entity that I work for is in Texas; I'm employed in New Jersey (formerly New York, where I reside). Particularly with regard to benefits (of all sorts) there are state-specific rules mentioned in the handbook. In particular, my employment is governed by NJ law. Your employer's failure to reflect MA law in its policies, of course, doesn't excuse it from complying with MA law. – phoog Nov 18 '15 at 18:17
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    @user1071847's question can be rephrased as "if I file a complaint with the MA labor agency or attorney general, based on MA employment law, will they refuse to enforce it or be unable to enforce it because the employer is an Ohio company?" The answer to that question is unambiguously no. – phoog Nov 19 '15 at 17:32

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