Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law

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Service Employees International Union, Local 509 (Union) brought a declaratory judgment action against the Department of Mental Health (DMH) maintaining that certain contracts DMH made with private vendors were “privatization contracts” subject to the requirements of the Pacheco Law. The Union sought a declaration invalidating the contracts because DMH did not comply with the statutory prerequisites of the Pacheco Law. The case was dismissed. The Supreme Judicial Court remanded the case. On remand, DMH again successfully moved to dismiss the Union’s declaratory judgment action on the basis that it was moot because the initial contracts had expired and the remaining extant renewal contracts were immune from challenge by virtue of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 7, 53. The Union appealed, asserting that because the non-compliant initial contracts were invalid under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 7, 54, so too were any renewal contracts made pursuant to them. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of dismissal, holding that the protection afforded renewal contracts by section 53 is not extended to those renewal contracts made pursuant to timely challenged and subsequently invalidated privatization contracts under section 54. View "Service Employees International Union, Local 509 v. Department of Mental Health" on Justia Law

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The Massachusetts Insurers Insolvency Fund (Fund) is statutorily authorized to recover from “high net worth insureds” certain amounts paid by the Fund “on behalf of” such insureds. There was no dispute that defendant Berkshire Bank met the definition of “high net worth insured.” The Fund brought this action seeking to recover from Berkshire workers’ compensation benefits the Fund had paid to a Berkshire employee. The superior court allowed Berkshire’s motion for summary judgment, concluding that any amounts paid by the Fund would not be “on behalf of” the insured employer, and therefore, recoupment was not available. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Fund was authorized to recoup the sums in question because they were paid by the Fund “on behalf of” Berkshire within the meaning of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 175D, 17(3). View "Massachusetts Insurers Insolvency Fund v. Berkshire Bank" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff sued her employer for sex discrimination, race discrimination, and retaliation under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 151B, 9. The jury found in favor of Plaintiff on her retaliation claim and awarded her both compensatory and punitive damages. Defendant was additionally ordered to pay attorney’s fees and costs. The judgment did not provide for postjudgment interest on punitive damages, costs, and attorney’s fees. Plaintiff appealed, arguing that her request for postjudgment interest should have been granted. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment, holding that the trial judge correctly denied Plaintiff’s request for postjudgment interest on the award of punitive damages, costs, and attorney’s fees because Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 151B, 9 does not contain language that necessarily implies that the Commonwealth should be liable for such postjudgment interest. View "Brown v. Office of Comm’r of Probation" on Justia Law

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This interlocutory review arose out of a discovery dispute in an action brought by Plaintiff, a union member, alleging claims of employment discrimination and retaliation against Defendants. Plaintiff objected to certain discovery requests on the part of Defendants, asserting a union member-union privilege. The judge rejected Plaintiff’s claim and entered an order compelling production of the discovery. At issue on appeal was whether the Supreme Judicial Court should interpret Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 150E as implying a union member-union privilege even where no such privilege has been recognized in Massachusetts. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the order below, holding (1) there is no legislative intent to incorporate within Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 150E a union member-union privilege extending beyond the labor dispute setting; and (2) the Court declines to recognize the privilege under common law. View "Chadwick v. Duxbury Public Schools" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against against her employers (Defendants), alleging that she had been subject to a sexually hostile or offensive work environment. The jury rendered a verdict in favor of Plaintiff, finding that Defendants were liable for $40,000 in compensatory damages and $500,000 in punitive damages. The superior court judge granted Defendant’s motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict in part, allowing the motion as to the award of punitive damages but denying it with respect to the award of compensatory damages. Both parties appealed. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the award of compensatory damages, reversed the judge’s order granting judgment notwithstanding the verdict as to the punitive damages award, and reinstated the jury’s verdict, holding that, based on the evidence, the jury could have found that Defendants failed to take adequate remedial measures after being put on notice of a sexually hostile or offensive work environment and that the failure was egregious or outrageous. Remanded for calculation of Plaintiff’s attorney’s fees and consideration of Defendant’s motion for remittitur as to the punitive damages award. View "Gyulakian v. Lexus of Watertown, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff sustained a knee injury while working for the Department of Correction. Plaintiff initially received workers’ compensation benefits, as well as assault pay, but after Plaintiff was separated from employment due to a finding that he was medically unfit for duty, the Department stopped paying assault pay. Plaintiff then commenced this action seeking a declaration that he was entitled to continue receiving assault pay for so long as he was receiving workers’ compensation benefits. The superior court agreed and ordered that judgment enter declaring that Plaintiff was entitled to assault pay retroactive to the date of his separation from employment. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding that a Commonwealth employee’s right to assault pay ceases with his or her separation from employment. View "Marchand v. Dep’t of Corr." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, an attorney who worked for the defendant Boston law firm, 2004-2008, complained to her superiors and, later, to the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, that she was being subjected to discriminatory treatment on the basis of her gender. After her 2007 demotion, on the advice of her attorney, the plaintiff searched the firm's document management system for items that might prove her assertions of discrimination. After these searches were made known to the firm's chairman, the plaintiff's employment was terminated "for cause." Her suit under G. L. 151B, 4 alleged gender discrimination, pregnancy discrimination, aiding and abetting discrimination, failure to investigate and remedy discrimination, and retaliation. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court reversed dismissal of her claims, in part. Plaintiff presented evidence from which a reasonable jury could infer that both her demotion and her termination were the result of unlawful discrimination, as well as evidence allowing an inference that both were the result of retaliation, so that summary judgment was inappropriate. An employee's accessing, copying, and forwarding of documents may, in certain limited circumstances, constitute "protected activity," but only where her actions are reasonable in the totality of the circumstances. View "Verdrager v. Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky & Popeo, P.C." on Justia Law

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DiMasi, a former Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, resigned from his position in 2009 and began receiving retirement benefits from the State Board of Retirement (board). A federal grand jury subsequently indicted DiMasi for violating several federal laws while in office. Consequently, the board voted to suspend DiMasi’s retirement allowance. DiMasi sought judicial review, and the municipal court entered summary judgment in favor of DiMasi. The board appealed. Thereafter, a federal jury found DiMasi guilty of seven counts of the superseding indictment. On September 9, 2011, DiMasi was sentenced to a term of imprisonment. The board again voted to suspend payment of DiMasi’s retirement allowance. A hearing officer concluded that DiMasi’s convictions became “final” for purposes of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 32, 15(4) when he was sentenced, and therefore, DiMasi forfeited his retirement allowance as of September 9, 2011. On January 14, 2014, all of DiMasi’s direct appeals were exhausted. The municipal court agreed with the board that the term “final” meant the date when DiMasi was sentenced and not the date when all of his direct appeals were exhausted. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that in the context of pension forfeiture, a “final conviction” occurs when an individual is sentenced and not at the conclusion of the appellate process. View "DiMasi v. State Bd. of Retirement" on Justia Law

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Appellant was found guilty of twenty-one counts of unauthorized access to a computer system. That same day Appellant filed an application for voluntary superannuation retirement. The public employment retirement administration commission concluded that Appellant's criminal convictions related to his office or position and, therefore, Appellant was not entitled to receive a retirement allowance under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 32, 15(4). On review, a judge in the district court concluded that Appellant's convictions did not trigger forfeiture under section 15(4). The superior court affirmed. The Appeals Court vacated the judgment, concluding that Appellant's convictions were directly linked to his office or position, and remanded for consideration of Appellant's alternative argument that forfeiture of his pension constituted an excessive fine. On remand, the district court concluded that the fine in this case - forfeiture of Appellant's lifetime retirement allowance - was excessive and violated the Eighth Amendment. A superior court judge reversed. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding (1) the mandatory forfeiture of a public employee’s retirement allowance upon conviction of a crime “involving violation of the laws applicable to his office or position” is a “fine” under the Eighth Amendment; and (2) under the circumstances of this case, the mandatory forfeiture of Appellant's public employee’s retirement allowance was “excessive.” View "Pub. Employee Ret. Admin. Comm’n v. Bettencourt" on Justia Law

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Appellant filed a complaint against Harvard University alleging employment discrimination. The superior court granted Harvard’s motion to dismiss the complaint and denied Appellant’s subsequent attempts to reinstate the case. Appellant appealed and, while his appeal was pending, filed a motion to stay the appeal so that he could file a new complaint and seek additional discovery in the underlying action. A single justice of the Appeals Court denied the motion. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the single justice did not err or abuse her discretion in denying Appellant’s request for relief. View "Myrick v. Harvard University" on Justia Law