Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law

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Petitioner filed an action alleging claims of Medicare or Medicaid fraud and retaliation by his employer when he spoke up about the purported fraud. A federal district court judge allowed a motion to dismiss certain federal defendants and then remanded the case to the superior court. Petitioner appealed. The appeal remained pending when, in the superior court, the remaining defendants filed motions to dismiss. Petitioner filed a motion in the county court that the single justice treated as a petition pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3, arguing that the state court lacked jurisdiction because his appeal from the remand order remained pending in the federal court and seeking a stay in the superior court. A docket entry indicated that because Petitioner’s appeal remained pending, the status conference would be continued. Thereafter, the single justice denied the petition. Petitioner then filed a memorandum and appendix pursuant to S.J.C. Rule 2:21 seeking a stay in the trial court. The Supreme Court denied relief, holding that this case did not present a situation where extraordinary relief from this Court was required, and the single justice correctly denied relief under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3. View "Padmanabhan v. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services" on Justia Law

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Christine DeFelice, a part-time employee for the Stoneham school department, sought retroactive membership in the Stoneham retirement system based on a nine-week period during which she worked over thirty hours per week. The municipal retirement board granted DeFelice retroactive membership in the retirement system for the nine-week period but denied her membership for the subsequent time during which she remained a part-time employee. The Contributory Retirement Appeal Board reversed, concluding that the board was statutorily precluded from terminating the membership of individuals who had been granted membership in a retirement system and continued working for the same municipal employer. The superior court reversed. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding (1) a municipal retirement board does not possess absolute discretion to terminate a part-time employee’s membership in a retirement system to which that board has granted the employee membership; and (2) a “separation from [an employee’s] service” under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 32, 3(1)(a)(i) does not occur when a part-time employee working two jobs for the same municipal employer ceases to work only one of those jobs. View "Retirement Board of Stoneham v. Contributory Retirement Appeal Board" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs contracted with Defendants through small corporations that Plaintiffs apparently formed for this purpose. Plaintiffs, who performed services in Massachusetts as furniture delivery drivers, brought a putative class action against Defendants under the independent contractor statute, claiming that they had been misclassified as independent contractors. The trial judge granted summary judgment for Defendants on the ground that the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act (FAAAA) preempted the independent contractor statute in its entirety. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the grant of summary judgment, holding (1) while a portion of the independent contractor statute is preempted by the FAAAA, the remainder is severable and remains applicable to Plaintiffs’ misclassification claim; and (2) summary judgment dismissing the misclassification claim is not warranted on the separately asserted basis that Plaintiffs lack standing as individuals to assert claims for misclassification under the statute. View "Chambers v. RDI Logistics, Inc." on Justia 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