Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law

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A patient who qualifies for the medical use of marijuana and has been terminated from her employment because she tested positive for marijuana as a result of her lawful medical use of marijuana may seek a civil remedy against her employer through claims of handicap discrimination in violation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 151B. The Supreme Judicial Court thus reversed the dismissal of Plaintiff’s claim for handicap discrimination and related claims under chapter 151B but affirmed the allowance of the motion to dismiss as to the counts claiming an implied private cause of action under the medical marijuana act and wrongful termination in violation of public policy, holding that there is no implied statutory private cause of action under the medical marijuana act and that Plaintiff failed to state a claim for wrongful termination in violation of public policy. View "Barbuto v. Advantage Sales & Marketing, LLC" on Justia Law

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It was not appropriate to vacate the arbitration award in this case concerning the termination of a police officer. The City of Boston terminated David Williams, a Boston police officer, for using a choke hold in arrested an unarmed suspect for disorderly conduct and making false statements in a departmental investigation. An arbitrator found no underlying misconduct on the part of the officer and ruled that the City of Boston lacked just cause to terminate the officer and ordered his reinstatement. The City filed a complaint seeking to vacate the arbitrator’s award. The superior court dismissed the complaint. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that it was not appropriate to vacate the arbitration award where the award neither exceeded the arbitrator’s authority nor violated public policy and where no underlying misconduct was found. View "City of Boston v. Boston Police Patrolmen's Association" on Justia Law

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Under Massachusetts law, statutory prejudgment interest pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 231, 6H shall be added to the amount of lost wages and other benefits awarded as damages pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 149, 150 but shall not be added to the additional amount of the award arising from trebling of those damages as liquidated damages. The Supreme Judicial Court answered a question certified to it by the United State District Court for the District of Massachusetts regarding available statutory interest when liquidated treble damages are awarded pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 149, 150. This case was brought by several employees of Defendant in a class action suit against the company and its parent company. The plaintiffs alleged, among other claims, nonpayment of wages in violation of the Massachusetts Wage Act, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 149, 148, 150. The federal district judge granted final approval of a class settlement agreement that resolved all outstanding issues except a question of law necessitating the certified question. View "George v. National Water Main Cleaning Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against the City, seeking enforcement of the Department of Industrial Accidents' (DIA) order to restore plaintiff's workers' compensation payments. The City suspended plaintiff's payments under the suspension statute, G.L. c. 268A, 25, after it learned that plaintiff had been indicted on charges related to misuse of controlled substances. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court held that workers' compensation benefits are not "compensation" as defined in the suspension statute, because they are not payments made "in return for services rendered." Therefore, the Superior Court actions brought by plaintiff to enforce the orders of the DIA were dismissed in error. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court reversed and remanded. View "Benoit v. City of Boston" on Justia Law

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The term “bodily injury” as used in Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 126, 18A and Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 30, 58 is that which results in physical injury. Through these two statutes, correction officers are granted additional compensation if the employee sustains bodily injury as a result of inmate violence during the course of his or her duties. Plaintiff, a correction officer, sued the sheriff, the sheriff’s department, and the Commonwealth to obtain compensation under the statutes. Plaintiff’s symptoms were an accelerated heart rate accompanied by light-headedness and difficulty breathing. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court, holding that while Plaintiff may well have sustained an injury, he failed to show that he had a bodily injury within the meaning of chapter 126, section 18A. View "Modica v. Sheriff of Suffolk County" on Justia Law

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In 2010, the Secretary of the Executive Office of Administration and Finance submitted to the legislature a request for an appropriation to fund collective bargaining agreements between the Commonwealth and two public employee unions reached more than one year earlier. The Department of Labor Relations concluded that by including information about anticipated fiscal effects of a legislative decision to fund collective bargaining agreements in his request for an appropriation, the Secretary violated its Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 150E, 7(b) duty and committed a prohibited practice under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 150E, 10(a)(5) by failing to bargain in good faith. The Commonwealth Employment Relations Board affirmed. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding that the Secretary did not violate section 7(b) or commit a prohibited practice in violation of section 10(a)(5). View "Commissioner of Administration & Finance v. Commonwealth Employment Relations Board" on Justia Law

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Following a series of disciplinary reprimands and suspensions for misconduct, Plaintiff was removed from her positions as an assistant clerk-magistrate of the Salem Division of the District Court Department. Plaintiff brought this action challenging her removal, arguing that the decision to remove her exceeded the clerk-magistrate’s statutory authority, was arbitrary or capricious, and violated her due process rights. The superior court upheld the removal decision. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that it was appropriate for the clerk-magistrate to factor in the whole of Plaintiff’s disciplinary record in terminating her, and therefore, the clerk-magistrate’s decision was not arbitrary or capricious, due process was satisfied, and Plaintiff demonstrated no deviation from the governing statute or rules. View "Perullo v. Advisory Committee on Personnel Standards" on Justia Law

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For the first decade of his employment with the Boston police department, Plaintiff was a patrol officer performing the full range of patrol officer duties. The department later placed Plaintiff on administrative duty due to his loss of cognitive function and memory and his “neuropsychological problem of speed and accuracy.” The Boston Patrolmen’s Association subsequently filed a grievance on Plaintiff’s behalf demanding that he be permitted to resume the duties of a patrol officer. An arbitrator found that the Department did not act unreasonably in placing Plaintiff on administrative duty. Plaintiff filed a discrimination lawsuit against the city. The motion judge allowed the city’s motion for summary judgment. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding that summary judgment was not appropriate because there were facts in dispute as to whether Plaintiff was a qualified handicapped person capable of performing the full duties of a patrol officer without posing an unacceptably significant risk of serious injury to himself or others. View "Gannon v. City of Boston" on Justia Law

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In 2007, Thomas Finneran, former Speaker of the House, pleaded guilty in federal district court to one count of obstruction of justice. The conviction stemmed from false testimony that Finneran had provided in relation to a federal court action challenging the 2001 redistricting act. Immediately after Finneran’s conviction, the State Retirement Board ceased payments of Finneran’s pension on the ground of his conviction under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 32, 15(4). The hearing officer concluded that Finneran’s crime required the forfeiture of his pension under the statute because he had “been convicted of a criminal offense involving violation of the laws applicable to his office or position.” A municipal court judge reversed, concluding that there was no direct link between Finneran’s conviction and his position as a House Member and/or Speaker. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that Finneran’s conviction of obstruction of justice was a “violation of the laws applicable to his office or position” and, therefore, required the statutory forfeiture of his pension. View "State Board of Retirement v. Finneran" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was the meaning and application of the stockholders’ agreement between Babcock Power Inc. and its former executive, Eric Balles. Babcock terminated Balles’ employment after discovering that he was engaged in an extramarital affair with a female subordinate. Concluding that Balles had been terminated “for cause” under the terms of his stockholders’ agreement with the company, the company’s board of directors “repurchased” Balles’ stock at a minimal price, withheld subsequent dividends, and refused to pay Balles any severance. Balles sought declaratory relief seeking that the stock be returned to him along with the withheld dividends. Balles prevailed at a jury-waived trial on his claim for declaratory relief but was unsuccessful in his request to receive severance pay. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial judge properly reviewed the board’s decision on a de novo basis; (2) the judge did not err in determining that Balles’ conduct did not constitute “cause” as defined in the stockholders’ agreement; and (3) Balles was not precluded from seeking relief pursuant to the terms of the stockholders’ agreement. View "Balles v. Babcock Power Inc." on Justia Law