Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendants and the denial of Plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment, holding that Plaintiffs, who worked for Defendants’ company that grew, harvested, packages, and distributed bean sprouts, were entitled to overtime pay for the hours they worked over forty each week under the overtime statute, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 151, 1A. The superior court judge concluded Plaintiffs were not entitled to overtime wages because the work they performed fell under the agricultural exemption to the overtime statute, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 151, 1A. The Supreme Judicial Court disagreed after reading the plain language of the exemption in Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 151, 1A(19) narrowly in include only the work of planting, raising, and harvesting crops, holding that Plaintiffs were not “engaged in agriculture and farming” within the meaning of the agricultural exemption and thus were entitled to overtime pay as provided by the overtime statute. View "Arias-Villano v. Chang & Sons Enterprises, Inc." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the award of attorney’s fees to Plaintiffs under the fee-shifting provisions of the Wage Act, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 149, 148, 150, holding that the “catalyst test” applied to the Wage Act claims and that the trial judge correctly found that Plaintiffs satisfied that test in this case. Plaintiffs were employees who filed a claim against their employer. The end result was a favorable settlement agreement and stipulation of dismissal. Plaintiffs then filed a motion for attorney’s fees. Defendants opposed the motion, arguing that the test for determining prevailing party status under federal fee-shifting statutes was the test established by Buckhannon Board & Care Home, Inc. v. West Virginia Department of Health & Human Resources, 532 U.S. 598 (2001). The judge concluded that the catalyst test and not the Buckhannon test applied to Massachusetts fee-shifting statues and that, under this test, Plaintiffs were “prevailing parties” for purposes of an award of attorney’s fees and costs. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the catalyst test applies to Wage Act claims; and (2) the trial judge did not err in finding that Plaintiffs satisfied the catalyst test in this case. View "Ferman v. Sturgis Cleaners, Inc." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the superior court’s allowance of Defendant’s motion for summary judgment and remanded this discrimination case, holding that the trial judge erred in determining that Plaintiff had failed to meet his burden of showing a prima facie case of discrimination. Plaintiff, a lieutenant in the Massachusetts State police, brought this Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 151B, 4 action alleging that he suffered discrimination when he was denied a transfer to a different troop station on the basis of his age, race, or national origin. The superior court granted summary judgment in favor of the State police, holding that Plaintiff did not meet his burden of showing that the denial of his request for a lateral transfer was an “adverse employment action.” The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the superior court’s judgment, holding (1) under certain circumstances, the failure to grant a lateral transfer to a preferred position may constitute an adverse employment action under ch. 151B; and (2) because Plaintiff met his burden of showing a prima facie case of discrimination, this case is remanded to the motion judge to decide the issue of whether Plaintiff’s request for a lateral transfer was motivated by discriminatory animus. View "Yee v. Massachusetts State Police" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the decisions of the superior court judges allowing two police officers’ motions for judgment on the pleadings and vacating the decisions of the Essex Regional Retirement Board and the State Board of Retirement denying the officers a retirement allowance under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 32, 15(4) due to the officers’ respective criminal convictions, holding that requiring the forfeiture of the officers’ pension allowances was in error. John Swallow, a police sergeant for the town of Manchester-by-the-Sea, was on administrative leave when he was charged with crimes related to the discharge of his personal firearm. Brian O’Hare, a police sergeant of the State police, was charged with the federal crime of using the Internet to entice a person under the age of eighteen to engage in unlawful sexual activity. The two boards in these cases each concluded that the officers’ convictions violated the fundamental tenets of their positions as law enforcement officials and denied them a retirement allowance. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding that section 15(4) did not require the forfeiture of the officers' pension allowances. View "Essex Regional Retirement Board v. Swallow" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the superior court’s dismissal of employees’ (Employees) putative class action lawsuit brought against the corporate officers (Officers) of a ISIS Parenting, Inc. (Company), holding that the superior court judge properly granted the Officers’ motion to dismiss. After the Company abruptly ceased operations and terminated its entire workforce, the Employees brought a class action lawsuit against the Company in federal court alleging a violation of the Federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, 29 U.S.C. 2101-2109 (WARN Act). After receiving a nearly $2 million default judgment, the Employees brought a putative class action lawsuit against the Officers in state court under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 149, 148 (Wage Act), alleging (1) the WARN Act damages constituted wrongfully withheld “earned wages” for which the Officers were liable; and (2) the Officers committed a breach of fiduciary duties owed to the Company by allowing the Company to violate the WARN Act. The superior court granted the Officers’ motion to dismiss. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the Employees’ complaint was properly dismissed because (1) WARN Act damages are not “earned wages” under the Wage Act; and (2) the Employees did not assert a viable claim for breach of fiduciary duties. View "Calixto v. Coughlin" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the order of the superior court judge confirming an arbitration award, holding that the award did not violate public policy under the circumstances of this case. Employee, a police officer, was terminated from his position as a police officer in the Pittsfield police department for making false statements. Thereafter, Employee’s union (Union) filed a grievance under a collective bargaining agreement between the Union and the City of Pittsfield. An arbitrator found that there was not just cause for termination and reinstated Employee. The City commenced an action pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 150C, 11 to vacate the arbitrator’s award, arguing that it was contrary to public policy. A superior court judge confirmed the arbitration award. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that where the arbitrator found that Employee’s statements were not intentionally false and did not lead to a wrongful arrest of prosecution or result in any deprivation of liberty or denial of civil rights, the arbitrator’s award of reinstatement did not violate public policy. View "City of Pittsfield v. Local 447 International Brotherhood of Police Officers" on Justia Law

by
The independent contractor statute, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 149, 148B, does not determine whether a claimant is an employee for the purpose of workers’ compensation benefits under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 152. Claimant sought review of a decision by the reviewing board of the Department of Industrial Accidents affirming the findings of an administrative judge concluding that the claimant was an independent contractor and therefore not entitled to workers’ compensation. The Supreme Court held (1) the reviewing board properly applied the workers’ compensation statute’s definition of employee to determine whether the claimant in this case was an employee under chapter 152; and (2) therefore, the claimant was properly classified as an independent contractor for workers’ compensation purposes. View "Camargo's Case" on Justia Law

by
The independent contractor statute, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 149, 148B, does not determine whether a claimant is an employee for the purpose of workers’ compensation benefits under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 152. Claimant sought review of a decision by the reviewing board of the Department of Industrial Accidents affirming the findings of an administrative judge concluding that the claimant was an independent contractor and therefore not entitled to workers’ compensation. The Supreme Court held (1) the reviewing board properly applied the workers’ compensation statute’s definition of employee to determine whether the claimant in this case was an employee under chapter 152; and (2) therefore, the claimant was properly classified as an independent contractor for workers’ compensation purposes. View "Camargo's Case" on Justia Law

by
Under the circumstances of this case, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 30, 46D did not provide Luis Spencer, who resigned under pressure as Commissioner of Correction, a right to revert to a tenured civil service correction officer position in last held in 1992. Spencer brought a complaint against the Civil Service Commission and the Department of Correction, seeking judicial review of the Commission’s decision concluding that the right to revert to a civil service position applies only to involuntary terminations, not voluntary resignations, and because Spencer voluntarily resigned, no “termination of his service” had occurred within the meaning of section 46D. The superior court affirmed the Commission’s decision. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the Commission’s interpretation of this ambiguous statutory language was reasonable; and (2) the Commission correctly concluded that Spencer’s resignation was voluntary. View "Spencer v. Civil Service Commission" on Justia Law

by
Under the circumstances of this case, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 30, 46D did not provide Luis Spencer, who resigned under pressure as Commissioner of Correction, a right to revert to a tenured civil service correction officer position in last held in 1992. Spencer brought a complaint against the Civil Service Commission and the Department of Correction, seeking judicial review of the Commission’s decision concluding that the right to revert to a civil service position applies only to involuntary terminations, not voluntary resignations, and because Spencer voluntarily resigned, no “termination of his service” had occurred within the meaning of section 46D. The superior court affirmed the Commission’s decision. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the Commission’s interpretation of this ambiguous statutory language was reasonable; and (2) the Commission correctly concluded that Spencer’s resignation was voluntary. View "Spencer v. Civil Service Commission" on Justia Law